Relative of toddler beaten with shoe says child should have been saved

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Relatives of a toddler police said was beaten with a basketball shoe said the child's life should have been saved.

Two-year-old Saniiyah Kuykendall went to sleep Friday night and never woke up.  Family members who saw the baby earlier that evening said she might have lived if the man charged with her murder had taken her to the hospital.

Barneka Lewis, the cousin of Kuykendall's mother, Anisha Alford, said the little girl was known for her smile and sense of humor.

"Dancing and singing," Lewis said, "just as happy as she could be."

Saturday, Kuykendall was pronounced dead at her East Memphis home.  Her mother's boyfriend, Calvin Jones, told police he hit her with a basketball shoe and the back of his hand Friday after the toddler, who was potty training, soiled herself.

"It hurts," Lewis said, "but I couldn't believe it because being around him you would never think that.  She's a great mother, she loves her kids and wouldn't do anything to hurt them."

Alford, who was at work while her child was beaten, called Lewis in a panic Friday night.

"She answers the door crying and she's holding Saniiyah in her arms," Lewis said.  "I said, 'Anisha, what's wrong?'  And she said, 'Barneka, something is wrong with my baby.'"

Saniiyah was cold, gagging and spitting up.

"I talked to her and I said you need to take her to the hospital," Lewis said.

Lewis said Alford agreed to go, but Jones talked her out of it.

"He was kind of brushing it off," Lewis said, "saying ... she's tired, she's been trying to go to sleep all day, just let her get her rest."

Instead, Saniiyah was put into bed and never woke up.  Lewis said she has been unable to sleep since.

"There are some people out here that's making it seem like I could have done something," Lewis said.  "It's devastating for me, too.  It's hard."

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