3-year-old dies of abuse, torture

 UPDATED 12:12 AM HST Jan 18, 2012
Marley Makanani
HONOLULU -

Marley Makanani stayed alive just long enough for her grandmother to say goodbye. However, the sight of the 3-year-old's swollen and bruised body is not how Betsy Lindsey wants to remember her beautiful, granddaughter.

"Her eyes, her smile would just light up so many people's lives, she was just a happy little girl," said Lindsey.

In November, Tasha Nihau-Lindsey said she entrusted her three young daughters in to the care of her cousin, Ezekiel Wakinekona and his wife on the Big Island.

A difficult decision, the single mother said, to give them a better life until she could provide for her family. That was the last time she saw her daughter.

Nihau-Lindsey said on Friday her cousin's wife called saying Makanani nearly drowned in a bath but Nihau-Lindsey and her mother say the young girl suffered traumatic injuries to her face, burns over her body, blunt force trauma to her abdomen, bite marks and her eyelashes were cut off.

Makanani was taken to the North Hawaii Community Hospital, then flown to Kapiolani Medical Center where she died Sunday.

"He killed her, he killed my baby that's what he did. He killed her. Why would you do it, especially to her? She's so pure and I don't understand," said Nihau-Lindsey.

Nihau-Lindsey said there were times Wakinekona didn't answer or return her calls and the children seemed distant over the phone.

Nihau-Lindsey said Child Protective Service workers told her Makanani's sisters Journey, 6, and Taimani, 2, also suffered abuse.

She said she held her child and sang her a song before praying God would look over her baby girl.

"I told her I loved her always and forever, and they came in and told me heart stop beating so I felt like she let go. She figured mommy, 'I'll let go for you,'" said Nihau-Lindsey.

Big Island police charged Wakinekona with manslaughter in connection with the death of Marley Makanani.

Police said the child was found unresponsive and experiencing trouble breathing at Wakinekona's home in Waimea.

Makanani's sisters were placed into the custody Child Welfare Services.

In a court document, it said Makanani's sisters had multiple bruises and one sister told police in quotes "Uncle Eze" did this to her.

The family is pleading for anyone who may know something about Makanani's death to go to authorities.

Makanai's mother and grandmother want to set up a foundation in memory of Marley Makanani. Her mother named after music legend Bob Marley.

Wakinekona appeared in court Tuesday afternoon and is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

He was being held on $60,000 bail.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner released the cause of death and said Makanani died of brain damage due to near drowning along with head trauma due to child abuse.

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