Seven months after a 3-year-old died in her Brooklyn apartment, the city’s medical examiner ruled her death a homicide. The family of the child’s mother says her father and his family are to blame. NY1’s Erin Clarke filed the following report.
After seven months, a medical examiner has ruled the June death of three-year-old Tiana Mills a homicide, caused by malnutrition, dehydration and hyperthermia.
Tiana's aunt, who asked not to be identified, is heartbroken.
"She was a happy child. She was so happy, full of life. Everybody who saw her, so happy, beautiful baby. There's no reason why that should have happened to her," said the aunt.
According to Tiana's aunt, the girl and her twin sister were taken by ACS from their mother, Maria Semedei-Nunez, when she and their father, 36-year-old Errol Simmons, broke up and she suffered a breakdown.
It was at this Bushwick home where Tiana was found dead by her uncle, her sister scavenging for food, while Simmons was allegedly at work and his mother, Arlene, was watching over the girls.
"He came in, he saw my other niece digging in the kitchen for pineapple with knives scattered all over the floor and then he woke up his mother and said, 'Look, something is wrong because one of the babies is there looking for food.' He ran upstairs, he said he already found her dead,” the aunt said.
No one answered at the residence listed for the Simmons, but the aunt says during an ACS meeting, Arlene admitted that a bad back made it difficult for her to climb stairs to a very hot upstairs room where the twins slept, but says she physically checked on them once that night and later listened at the base of the steps for noise, before going to bed.
Semedei-Nunez and her family say the girls were not adequately cared for and want charges brought against Simmons and his mother.
"They are both responsible. He kept my niece in her care. If she was not fit to take care of her, he shouldn't have left her, he shouldn't have left them in her care," said the aunt.
The twins' aunt says she now has temporary custody of Tiana's twin and is fighting for permanent custody.
ACS would not discuss specific details of the case, but said an investigation to learn the circumstances of Tiana's death is ongoing.