In March, Ebony Stewart celebrated the birth of her only child, Yusuf E’Miy Stewart-Ali Jr.
On Saturday, she was in mourning over his death, too stunned to even begin thinking about making funeral arrangements.
“I’m gone. My mind is gone,” a grief-stricken Stewart said. “I can’t believe it. I’m too scared to go to sleep at night.”
While Stewart, 25, tried to cope with the loss of Yusuf, her boyfriend, identified by authorities as Daquan Davis, 19, of Atlantic City, was under arrest, accused of shaking the 6-month-old boy to death.
Davis, who graduated from Atlantic City High School in June, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child, acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said. Davis was being held Saturday at the Atlantic County jail on $750,000 cash bail and is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
When Stewart returned home from work about 3:45 a.m. Friday, she said she found her son unresponsive and called 911. She had left him in Davis’ care at her apartment in the Schoolhouse Apartments at Baltic Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Although authorities identified him as Daquan Davis, Stewart said her boyfriend’s name is Da’Quon Callaway. He is not the baby’s father. Stewart said she met her boyfriend about a month ago and they had been living together since then at the Schoolhouse Apartments.
“He only watched my son two or three times,” she said. “Other than that, I was always with him.”
Fighting back tears, Stewart recalled how she found the child Friday morning after returning home from a night at work as a paper sorter at The Press of Atlantic City in Pleasantville.
“I picked up my son to see if he was sleeping,” she said. “I noticed there was blood and that he wasn’t breathing. He was cold and stiff. I panicked. I said, ‘My son is dead. My son is dead.’”
The infant was pronounced dead after authorities arrived at the apartment. Davis was arrested Friday night after a joint investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office and Atlantic City police determined the baby had been shaken, McClain said.
“They questioned me and asked me if my son ever had bruises before,” Stewart said. “I told them my son didn’t have any bruises. Then they showed me a picture of bruises on his stomach. That’s when they told me he died of broken ribs.”
The infant’s death is the 15th homicide in Atlantic City this year, the first involving a child. Ten deaths have been shootings, including one outside the Schoolhouse Apartments in January. A makeshift memorial of flowers, stuffed animals and candles is still outside the apartment complex where Uthman Griffin, 26, was shot Jan. 13.
On Saturday, Stewart was comforted by friends and family members as she spoke of her love for her infant and somberly looked at the bassinet where she found him dead. A sign on the bedroom door reads, “Thank Heaven for Little Boys.” In addition to the bassinet, the room was crowded with Yusuf’s rocker, his baby swing, his car seat and toys.
“He was a happy baby. He didn’t cry much at all, except for when he wanted to eat,” said one of Stewart’s close friends, Linda Gibbs, 25 of Atlantic City.
“He smiled all the time and cooed,” added Yusuf’s grandmother, Tracey Stewart, 52, also of Atlantic City. “He had just learned to sit up.”
Andrew Stewart, 26, of Atlantic City, talked about how the infant transformed his sister’s life and brought her so much joy.
“The baby changed her life completely,” he said. “He helped her to do all that. She was getting her future together. Now, that has been taken away from her.”
Ebony Stewart said it was just too painful to ponder making funeral arrangements at this time.
“I know I have to do it,” she said softly. “I just haven’t thought about it yet. He was my firstborn.”
Staff Writer Lynda Cohen contributed to this report.
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