By Ellen Jean Hirst, Carlos Sadovi and Rosemary Regina Sobol
11:24 PM CST, January 20, 2013
A 2-year-old girl from Chicago’s South Side was remembered by neighbors as happy, energetic and healthy Sunday night, not yet a day after she died.
Layla Stewart, of the 2000 block of West 69th Place in the West Englewood neighborhood was pronounced dead at 2:12 a.m. Sunday morning. She died from multiple injuries sustained in a beating, and her death was ruled a homicide, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
According to a police report, a cousin who was babysitting fed Layla a hot dog Saturday night, after which the girl began vomiting and complaining of stomach pains.
The girlfriend of Layla's father gave the girl Pepto-Bismol, and she and Layla's father left for a party, according to the report.
When they returned from the party, the girl was unresponsive, according to the report.
The child was taken to Holy Cross Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
A doctor who examined her found bruising "throughout her body" but told police the bruising did not seem to be recent, according to the report.
Several neighbors said that their children would often play with Layla and her two older siblings. Layla’s mother died less than a year ago, Chastity Meacham, who lives on the same block as the Stewarts, said, and Layla’s father “busted his butt to make sure (his children) didn’t go without.”
Meacham, 20, said her four-year-old daughter would often play at the Stewart home and that she’s shocked that Layla, who she saw just days ago, is gone.
“She was a little, happy baby,” Meacham said. “(She and her siblings) had a lot of energy. I can’t grasp that – and they just buried her mama.”
Meacham said the last time she saw Layla, the little girl seemed healthy. She said Layla’s father would bring her and her siblings to a daycare in a house across the street every day and commute hours to work.
No one was yet in custody in connection with the homicide, Purkiss said. Police are investigating the incident as a homicide.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is investigating allegations of neglect against Layla’s father, said Jimmie Whitelow, a DCFS spokesman.
The office has not had any previous contact with the family. Other children in the family are in the care of relatives, Whitelow said.
Tribune reporter Naomi Nix contributed.
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