Jasmine Chambers had four teeth and ice-blue eyes and golden curls. She rattled pots and pans. She kissed the dog's wet nose. When she said bye-bye, she waved with tiny fingers.
Jasmine's mother had a boyfriend. She went to work on Thursday, leaving Jasmine alone with him for the first time. Jasmine was 13 months old. She died that night from a brain hemorrhage.
The boyfriend said Jasmine fell off the couch. He cried at the hospital. He told Jasmine's mother they would get through this together.
The truth came out on Friday, authorities say.
In a recorded phone call, the boyfriend, a 24-year-old mental health technician named Jeremiah Kirkpatrick, admitted he struck Jasmine's head, threw her on the couch and dropped her in the bathtub. Pasco sheriff's deputies arrested him late that night and charged him with first-degree murder.
"(I) just snapped and beat the s--- out of her," he said, according to his arrest report, which also says he admitted squeezing her until she stopped breathing.
On Saturday a judge ordered Kirkpatrick held in the Pasco County Jail without bail. If found guilty, he could be executed.
Jasmine's mother can't wait.
"He deserves the chair," said April Chambers, 19. "I want to see sparks come out of his eyes."
* * *
April Chambers has freckles and honey-blond hair. She could pass for a high school sophomore. She lived with her mother and stepfather, Peggy and John Wimmer, off an unpaved New Port Richey road, in a house with decaying sports cars in the yard.
Chambers knows about violent men. She says Jasmine's father is in prison for attacking her while she was carrying his child. She identifies him as John Michael Gillespie, who appears in state records as serving time for aggravated battery on a pregnant victim.
Jasmine was born Aug. 12, 2005, at 7 pounds, 1 ounce. About six months later, when Chambers was at work at the Players Club, an adult-entertainment emporium in Hudson, she met a new man.
Jeremiah Kirkpatrick had a sweet personality, she said. He claimed he'd served in Iraq with the Army, and he said he would help with the bills.
Kirkpatrick had been arrested in January on a charge of cruelty to a child. But Chambers says Kirkpatrick told her he'd been blamed for his former girlfriend's transgressions, and state records show the charge was dropped in March.
She let him move into the house she shared with her mother and stepfather.
He seemed to like Jasmine. He sometimes watched her when Chambers' parents were nearby. But the baby was suspicious. She screamed when he walked in the room.
"I think that got to him," Chambers said.
Kirkpatrick and Chambers tried to have their own baby. But in August, Chambers says, she had a miscarriage.
On Wednesday, Peggy Wimmer had to go to Crystal River to watch other grandchildren. Kirkpatrick was the only available babysitter.
"We figured a couple hours, he'd be fine," Wimmer said.
* * *
As it turned out, Kirkpatrick was alone in the house with Jasmine for barely half an hour. And during that whole time, two men who might have saved her were steps away.
John Wimmer finished work early that day. He and his building assistant Pat Berlien pulled in around 5:30 p.m., just as April was leaving for work.
But a next-door neighbor unwittingly diverted them. Rudy DeBore saw the men and called them over to chat. They all say they never heard a sound from the house.
Inside, Chambers says Kirkpatrick told her later, he tried to feed Jasmine a snack. She wouldn't stop crying, so he struck her. He put her on the couch and squeezed her until her she stopped breathing and her eyes rolled back in her head, according to his arrest report. He dropped her once in the bathtub and again in the living room. He finally called 911 and said she'd fallen off the couch.
Authorities called Chambers, who called Peggy Wimmer. She called her husband, who was standing in the driveway. He rushed inside. He found Jasmine naked on the floor, gray as ash, with a grapefruit-sized bruise on her head.
"I knew right away it was too late," he said.
* * *
On Saturday, at her sister's house in Holiday, Chambers clutched Jasmine's blanket. It was printed with yellow ducks.
"They told me she didn't feel pain," she said as the tears rolled. "I know she felt pain. I know she felt pain every time that son of a b---- hit her."
Her mother hugged her. Her sister hugged her. Her manager from the Players Club hugged her. Nothing worked.
"I'm in a room full of people," she said, "and I'm alone."
Thomas Lake can be reached at email@example.com or 1-800-333-7505
HOW TO HELP
April Chambers says she needs money to pay for Jasmine's cremation and memorial service. Checks, payable to April Chambers, can be mailed to her sister, Angela Berlien, 3248 Umber Road, Holiday, FL 34691.