TAMPA — The last time Shayla Thompson saw her nephew was in church.
She remembers holding Joshua Worthy and teasing him with a piece of gum he wanted. "He was laughing so hard," said Thompson, 21.
Joshua would have turned 2 on Dec. 10. But he died last month and on Friday police charged his mother, Quanyisha Sharell Thompson, 24, with his murder.
Joshua lived with his mother and sisters at 3809 N Jackson Court. He was Thompson's fourth child and her first boy, according to her family. Neighbors said she and her boyfriend kept to themselves in the center of a row of apartments. Thompson was big with her fifth pregnancy on Oct. 1 when someone called police, who arrived to find Joshua not breathing. He died a short time later at Tampa General Hospital.
No one answered Thompson's door Friday afternoon. Outside, dozens of children played, while parents watched from doorways. Jameysia Wade lived a few apartments down from Thompson. Their children often played together. After Joshua died, Wade stood on the street corner with Thompson to help collect money for a funeral. People gave hundreds of dollars, Wade said. Joshua was a mama's boy and always stayed close to her, Wade said. After Joshua died, Wade said Thompson told her police were investigating because the boy had five broken ribs.
"I remember her saying, 'You know I wouldn't hurt my baby.' "
Wade believed her.
"That's not who she is," Wade said Friday.
An autopsy showed Joshua died as a result of blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Police say Thompson admitted she punched Joshua in the stomach four days before he died.
She has a record of domestic violence battery. Thompson was arrested in July 2009 and charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which she didn't contest.
Early Friday Tampa police detectives had an arrest warrant and were looking for Thompson. She turned herself in to authorities in the afternoon. Police credited social media with leading to the swift arrest.
She was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Late Friday she was in Hillsborough County jail in lieu of $75,0000 bail.
Her family said they won't believe she's guilty.
"She loved Josh," said Cherrie Green, Thompson's aunt, an assistant pastor at Pentecostal Church of God. Joshua had a large family in the area, Green said. On Labor Day, he had played with his cousins at a picnic.
Thompson's family has hired an attorney.
And two weeks ago, Thompson had a baby girl.
Reach Elisabeth Parker at email@example.com or (813) 226-3431.