HOW TO HELP
A fund has been set up to help with expenses for 3-year-old Donamiche Brewer, who remains in ICU at the Children's Hospital at Erlanger. To help, go to one of the locations of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union and donate to the account listed in his name.
To report suspected cases of child abuse, call the Tennessee Department of Children's Services hotline at 877-237-0004.
Looking back, neighbors said they never noticed bruises on the little boys, but that could be because the children often wore long pants and long-sleeved shirts, even in summer.
One woman said she heard thuds coming through the wall from the apartment next door, but never knew what caused the noise.
Now one of those boys, 4-year-old TyReke Evans, is dead and his 3-year-old brother, Domaniche Brewer, is in the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital at Erlanger. The boys' mother and her boyfriend face several charges, including first-degree murder.
"I swear I would have killed [the boyfriend] if I had come home and found my baby dead. I would have killed him with my bare hands or died trying," said Laquanda Cross, 34, who has four children and lives nearby in the Harriet Tubman public housing project.
A pile of toys now lies on a brightly colored piece of fabric at 1940 Sherman St., the boys' former home. Cross stared at the makeshift memorial while talking with neighbors.
"I hurt about that and that's not even my child," she said.
In the weeks before police say was TyReke's fatal beating, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services began investigating allegations of abuse in the home. DCS case workers were there last week, residents said.
Molly Sudderth, communications director for DCS, said Donamiche is now in protective custody.
The boys' father, Donamiche Evans, said the child named after him "is doing all right."
"I checked on him this morning," Evans said Wednesday. "He's not leaving any time soon."
The boys lived with Evans' estranged wife, 23-year-old Patricia Brewer. About six months ago, neighbors said, 21-year-old Kenneth Coleman began staying with Brewer.
Brewer and Coleman both face charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated child abuse. Both are scheduled to go before Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge David Bales on Dec. 28. Brewer's bond is set at $3 million. Coleman's bond is set at $4 million.
Sudderth said the child abuse investigation was opened this month, but would not give the day.
She would not say how many referrals the state agency received about the boys' care by Brewer, but other officials said case workers didn't have enough evidence to remove the boys from the home.
This year, DCS received approximately 169,000 calls alleging child abuse, Sudderth said.
"In general, removing a child from their home is the most drastic alternative for DCS. To remove a child from the home, we must petition the Juvenile Court for custody and need evidence that will support removal," Sudderth said in an email.
Neighbors at Harriet Tubman said they sometimes overheard Coleman and Brewer arguing. They also noticed a change in Brewer when she began dating him.
"I feel like, with [Coleman] being in the picture, she accepted everything he did," said Jodi Scott, 32, a nearby neighbor. "You would rather put yourself and your kids in jeopardy because you want to be with him?"
Scott has had experience with domestic violence. She said she moved to Chattanooga to get away from an abusive relationship. After spending 45 days at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, she moved to Harriet Tubman with her three children.
Arrest reports say Brewer told investigators that, at one point in their relationship, "she woke up one morning to her children screaming while Kenneth chased them through the house swinging a belt at them."
TyReke fell and hit his head against the wall, she said. She mentioned several incidents of Coleman disciplining the children, the report stated.
Before she met Coleman, Brewer was "a good mom," said 28-year-old neighbor Tia Fortson, who has four children of her own.
"If you felt like you wanted [Coleman] to stay, you should have, out of concern for your kids, let them go," Fortson said, perhaps giving them to the father or grandparents.