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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Child abuse
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 26, 2013
Date of arrest: 2 days after
Date of birth: 1990
Victim profile: Her disabled daughter, Aliyah Marie Branum, 2
Method of murder: Hitting her head against the wall
Location: Citrus County, Florida, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to 30 years in prison in April 23, 2014
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Citrus woman sentenced to 30 years for daughter's death

By Ferd Zogbaum -

Thursday, April 24, 2014

INVERNESS -- A judged handed down a maximum sentence for Chelsea Huggett, the mother who admitted to killing her 2-year-old daughter last year.

Judge Richard Howard gave Huggett the maximum sentence of 30 years.

"There is not a square inch of this child's face that's not beat to hell for lack of a better word," said Howard.

Before Huggett's sentence was handed down, her mother and sister both asked the judge for the maximum sentence.

"Please sentence Aliyah's killer to the maximum of 30 years so she can have justice," said mother Bonnie Huggett.

"It takes a soulless person to harm a child and a demon to harm their own flesh and blood," said sister Sarah Huggett.

The 23-year-old pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and child abuse earlier this year in the death of her daughter.

Officials say she shook 2-year-old Aliyah Brandum and hit her head against the wall in May 2013. At the time of her death, the child had bruises all over her body, including her face, head, arms, legs, back and shoulders, deputies said.

Huggett, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest, gave birth to another daughter last May.

"Very difficult because a child I gave birth to killed her child and that was very hard," said Bonnie Huggett.

Huggett's mother and father have started an organization called Aliyah's Project. They want to educate and help other mothers who are having a difficult time.


Citrus mom accused of killing child pleads guilty


February 26, 2014

CITRUS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) - A Citrus woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter in April changed her plea from not guilty to guilty Wednesday morning in Citrus County court.

Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, 22-year-old Chelsea Huggett sat in front of Judge Richard Howard as her attorney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on her behalf.

According to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, Huggett shook her daughter Aliyah Marie Branum so violently she fractured the girl's skull and caused multiple bruises. Deputies said she did it because the little girl wouldn't stop crying and climbing on her.

Huggett's neighbors said there was fighting and screaming in Huggett's house. Florida Department of Children and Families visited the house twice but didn't see any obvious signs of abuse.

Huggett's family was present in the courtroom Wednesday and was visibly upset as the prosecution detailed the incident. Huggett shed tears as she heard the prosecutor describe the injuries.

She is facing a maximum of 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Her sentencing is scheduled for April 22nd.


How child services repeatedly failed to protect disabled girl, 2, before she was 'killed by her mother who smashed her head against the wall'

Aliyah Marie Branum was savagely beaten, smothered and neglected in her short life
Her mother Chelsea Huggett, 21, is facing first-degree murder charge over her daughter's death in Florida

By Rachel Quigley and Louise Boyle -

August 19, 2013

A two-year-old disabled girl was repeatedly let down by social services it was claimed today after authorities missed opportunities to save her in the months before she was allegedly murdered by her own mother.

Aliyah Marie Branum was savagely beaten, smothered and neglected in her short life.

In April, her 21-year-old mother is believed to have fatally injured her after smashing her head against the wall because she would not stop 'whining'.

Chelsea Huggett, from Florida, faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

Police were called to Huggett's home on April 26, where Aliyah was found unconscious.

The little girl was pronounced dead in hospital. Her skull had been cracked open.

Records obtained by the Miami Herald this week show that there were repeated warning signs that Aliyah was being viciously abused by an unstable mother who could not take care of her needs.

Huggett was investigated in the nine months before her daughter died following two calls to an abuse and neglect hotline revealed that the girl and her mother were homeless.

Aliyah was born with several disabilities but her mother failed to address her needs properly. Her diaper was rarely changed, leaving bleeding sores on her legs.

Child services then asked Huggett in January 2013 about bruises on her daughter's thighs to which she angrily denied abusing her daughter. Aliyah was again left in her mother's care.

There were separate reports that Huggett, a former soldier with a history of anger issues, had tried to smother her daughter while sitting in a veterans' services office.

Aliyah is believed to be one of dozens of children who have died following oversights by the Department of Children and Families in Florida, the Herald reported.

The man in charge David Wilkins was fired last month as lawmakers this week began an investigation into how the abused children slipped through the net.

At the time of her death, investigators say Aliyah had bruises all over her body, including her face, head, arms, legs, back and shoulders. She had yellow fluid coming from her ears and was bleeding from her nose and ears.

Huggett, who has her daughter’s name and birthday tattooed across her chest, first blamed her boyfriend for the toddler's injuries.

She told police that he had killed her by spraying bug spray on the little girl.

She later confessed to the terrible child abuse, telling police that she shook her because she whined all of the time and wanted to sit on her lap and climb over her all the time.

A few hours later, she yelled at her daughter to 'shut the f*** up' and covered her mouth with her hand to muffle her cries, according to the police report from April.

The medical examiner also determined Aliyah had a skull fracture and hemorrhaging on the left side of her swollen brain, News 10reports.

Citrus County Sheriff Jeffrey J. Dawsy said: 'This is a brutal murder of a defenseless child, of a two-year-old, and she could have sought help of numerous occasions and she failed to do that.'


Girl, 2, pays with her life for DCF’s inaction

By Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch -

August 18, 2013

Aliyah Marie Branum spent much of her two years alive either homeless, living in a tent or a shed — and being cursed at, neglected and beaten.

Aliyah was born with several disabilities, and her right eye was deformed and turning inward toward her brain — a condition her mother knew was serious but failed to treat. Her caregivers often didn’t bother to change her diapers, resulting in rashes and bleeding.

Through it all, Aliyah’s mother was witnessed, time and time again, spewing hateful profanities at her.

The toddler couldn’t defend herself or ask for help. She could not tell authorities who had left the bruises on her upper thigh this past January. And, when a team of child abuse experts asked her mother, Chelsea Maree Huggett — a woman with admitted severe anger issues — about the injury, she exploded: “Are you accusing me of abusing my child?”

In fact, though there was mounting evidence that Aliyah was in grave danger with a mother who’d already also been accused of smothering and striking her “really hard” in a public office, state child welfare authorities never considered Huggett an abuser.

That changed on April 26, when the child was pronounced dead from a vicious beating that, in many ways, seemed inevitable. In her death, the little girl with the wisps of blond hair and a penchant for looking pretty in pink joined a tragic cluster of children who had histories with the state child protection agency before they were killed.

At least 20 children have died since mid-April in a deadly summer of abuse and neglect for Florida’s children. The carnage cost then-DCF Secretary David Wilkins his job last month, and prompted a “town hall” meeting among lawmakers from three South Florida counties this coming Tuesday.

Aliyah’s last hours were particularly brutal: A “multitude of bruises, marks and other injuries” pocked the girl’s body, police said. Her face was puffy; her left eye swollen “completely shut.” Aliyah’s brain was bleeding, and blood oozed from her nose and both ears. Aliyah had injuries to her forehead, cheeks, lips, head, shoulders, pelvic area and back.

Cause of death: blunt force trauma. The alleged killer: Huggett, the mother who had her daughter’s name and birthday tattooed across her chest.

“This is a woman who could have cried out for help,” said Citrus County Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsy. “She could have cried out for help. There are enough social services out there. She brutally murdered her daughter.”

Huggett was charged was first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse, and is awaiting trial in jail.

She told police she threw the toddler against a wall for “whining.”

Records obtained by the Miami Herald under Florida’s public records law show Huggett had left a long trail of clues suggesting that a toxic mixture of post traumatic stress disorder — a vestige of her service in the military — a chemical imbalance that left her explosively angry, and her inability to cope with a needy and fussy child would likely combust into tragedy.

The clues, records show, all were overlooked.

Aliyah’s death shook the small Central Florida town of Hernando. An unidentified friend or family member created a page in memory of Aliyah on Facebook, and posts photos of the little girl almost weekly — along with heart-rending messages: “Thoughts are with you today sweet angel Aliyah,” from last week, or “God has you safe in His keeping…We have you forever in our hearts” from late July.

She first came to DCF’s attention in June 2012, when the agency “screened out” — deemed unworthy of any action — two calls to an abuse and neglect hotline suggesting the girl and her mother were living in a hot storage shed. Yet another report suggested the family was homeless. The calls did not warrant an investigation, the agency wrote, because being homeless or living in a shed is not connected to “child safety issues.”

Another report arrived on Aug. 10, 2012: Aliyah, it was said, appeared to be too skinny, and the family was still homeless. She was suffering from “horrible” diaper rash because her mom’s boyfriend, with whom the child was left sometimes, refused to change her diapers. The boyfriend cut himself with a box cutter and was threatening to kill Aliyah and her mom.

The report also noted: “When Aliyah was crying, the mother put a blanket over her mouth and she smacked her really hard on her legs. As a result, she sustained finger-shape welt marks.”

A review, still in progress, of Aliyah’s death says the state’s abuse hotline was told Huggett “had attempted to smother the child” while at a Veteran’s Administration office in Central Florida. There is no evidence that particular allegation was investigated at all, as no effort was made to interview any witnesses other than Huggett, who denied the claim.

The investigation, such as it was, did, however, turn up other disturbing tidbits: Huggett had told an investigator “she had been experiencing anger issues due to her daughter not listening.” She acknowledged repeatedly that she needed counseling.

DCF finished its investigation by finding no evidence Huggett had harmed her child. The agency offered the mom help, but did not insist she take it. Huggett did sign a “safety plan” promising to “refrain from excessive corporal punishment.”

Aliyah returned to DCF’s abuse hotline on Jan. 10. Aliyah, a caller said, was not receiving physical therapy for a genetic condition that affected her feet. She was also “dirty” and had a diaper rash that covered her pelvic region.

And then there was this allegation: “On. Jan. 8, 2013, Aliyah had a bruise on her lower back that resembled three fingers of a hand print” — an allegation that apparently was made by Aliyah’s grandmother. The report added: “Aliyah’s mom yells at her, telling her to shut up and be quiet.”

Investigators did not find any evidence of a beating. But a doctor with the Department of Health’s Child Protection Team, which specializes in detecting abuse, documented “linear” and “circular” bruises on Aliyah’s thigh, and concluded they were evidence of physical abuse.

In an interview with an investigator, Huggett said she suffered from a “chemical imbalance” and “gets severely angry.” She admitted she hit Aliyah as a form of discipline — which she had promised months earlier not to do. And if there was any doubt regarding the length of Huggett’s fuse, it ended when she “lashed out” at doctors who asked her how Aliyah had ended up with bruises.

Oddly, when an investigator closed her case on Feb. 12, she ruled the abuse allegation was “not substantiated.”

“There is no evidence of any physical or sexual abuse; no injuries, marks or bruises on the child,” the investigator wrote.

The agency did, nevertheless, extract another “safety plan” from Huggett and her boyfriend, in which the couple promised — in scrawled cursive — “no physical discipline.”

Like the earlier one, the safety plan afforded no safety at all.

On April 24, Huggett took her daughter to Citrus Memorial Hospital by ambulance to treat swelling in the girl’s hands. Aliyah showed no signs of a beating that day. But later that evening, Aliyah became lethargic. Huggett told friends she thought Aliyah had consumed ant and roach killer, and, on the advice of her mom, she called a poison control hotline. The hotline told her to rush Aliyah to the hospital. When Huggett failed to follow orders, the hotline called to ask why, police said. Huggett “told the hotline employee the victim was now fine.”

In truth, Aliyah was suffering from a life-threatening attack, and Huggett later admitted she refused to seek medical care because she knew she’d be arrested.

Huggett told police on May 2 that she had violently shaken her baby “at least two times” the week before because “she would not stop whining.”

Aliyah, a 2-year-old who could not speak words but seemed quite capable of vocalizing her discomfort in other ways, “would not shut the [hell] up,” Huggett told police.

So Huggett employed a number of strategies to quiet her child: She covered the little girl’s mouth with her hand “to muffle her cries.” She shook her relentlessly. At 4 a.m. on April 26, she slammed her baby’s head into a wall, and smashed Aliyah’s skull by head-butting her.

The May 26 attack finally quieted Huggett’s fussy baby. Aliyah lost consciousness when her skull was cracked.

She never reawakened.


EXCLUSIVE: Ex-boyfriend of mother accused of killing toddler speaks out

Thursday, May 09, 2013

New details about the Citrus County woman accused of killing her daughter have been released.

Deputies released the 911 called made after 2-year-old Aliyah Branum was found not breathing on Thursday.

During the call, the caller said that Aliyah was not responding and that she had grey, purplish lips.

Aliyah's mother, Chelsea Huggett is charged with her daughter's murder. Deputies said Huggett admitted to beating her daughter to death. Hugget remains behind bars and is 8 months pregnant.

Jason Ruane, Huggett's ex-boyfriend of two years and father of her unborn baby, spoke out for the first time since Huggett was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

"I was just in shock. I started crying. I was lost for words because I had never seen ever hit Aliyah or just take out anything on her daughter," said Ruane.

When asked if he thought Huggett committed the crime and if he actually believed that she did it, he answered, "I have a feeling...she confessed to it so I honestly believe she did it."

At the same time, he said he and Chelsea did everything that the Department of Children and Families wanted them to do. He claims the allegations of bruises and rashes were just that, he says, allegations.

"She was well taken care of," he said. "She was always happy. Everybody I know sees us. We're always together. She's always smiling."

He says something must have happened and Chelsea snapped.

When asked what he wanted to see happen to Huggett, Ruane said, "I want to see her do her time. She did what she did. She's not going to be able to see my daughter but I want her to speak up because there's more that happened in that house for her to have snapped like that."

When asked if he believes the Citrus County Sheriff's Department should further their investigation, he says, "They need to do more digging."

Ruane wants to fight for custody of his unborn baby.

"I'm going to do the DNA and take whatever steps there is to make sure she's safe in a happy home. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure my daughter is raised in a safe environment and that Chelsea will never get to meet her for what she done."

Ruane plans to call the baby, Amelia, a name that he says both he and Huggett picked out together, though he says he never wants Huggett near the baby.


Mom allegedly slammed ‘whining’ toddler into wall

By Stephen Loiaconi -

Mon May 06, 2013

A Florida mother who allegedly claimed her 2-year-old daughter’s death was caused by bug spray later admitted she beat the child and slammed her head into a wall because she was whining, authorities alleged in court documents.

An arrest affidavit stated that Chelsea Huggett, 21, initially told Citrus County Sherriff’s Office deputies on April 26 that her boyfriend had killed her daughter, Aliyah Marie Branum, by spraying bug spray. However, deputies noted “the multitude of bruises, marks and other injuries to the victim,” according to the affidavit.

Aliyah’s death was ruled a homicide and the manner of death was determined to be blunt force trauma. A medical examiner documented a skull fracture and bruising on her forehead, cheeks, lips, shoulders and back.

Investigators learned that Aliyah had been taken to the hospital by ambulance on April 24 because of swelling in her hands.

Witnesses stated that the bruises found on the girl’s body after her death two days later were not present at the time.

According to the affidavit, witnesses described the victim as acting “lethargic” on April 25. Huggett and her roommates allegedly speculated then that Aliyah may have been exposed to ant/roach killer that had spilled on her booster seat.

Acting on the advice of her mother, Huggett contacted the poison control hotline that night, the affidavit said. A hotline employee recommended that she take Aliyah to a hospital.

Two hours later, the hotline called Huggett back because she had not done so. At that point, Huggett claimed Aliyah was fine and did not need to go to a hospital, according to the affidavit.

On May 2, Huggett agreed to speak to authorities for a follow-up interview. After being read her Miranda rights, she allegedly admitted that she did not seek medical attention for Aliyah because people at the hospital would see the girl’s bruises.

Huggett also allegedly confessed that she had shaken Aliyah at least twice on April 25 and 26 because she would not stop “whining.”

“She told me that the victim would whine all of the time and constantly wanted to climb on her and sit in her lap,” a detective wrote in the arrest affidavit.

According to the document, Huggett stated that she shook the crying child around 4 a.m. on April 26 and covered her mouth. She then allegedly slammed Aliyah’s head into a wall and head-butted her.

At that point, Aliyah lost consciousness and never woke up. Huggett allegedly admitted she then lay in bed with the unconscious child and did not seek medical treatment.

According to the affidavit, Huggett said she did not intend to kill her daughter but she could not take the whining anymore.

Huggett was charged with aggravated child abuse and murder while engaged in aggravated child abuse. She is scheduled for arraignment on June 3.

According to court documents, Huggett is eight months pregnant. She is being held without bond at Citrus County Jail.

Huggett has been assigned a public defender. A spokesperson for the Citrus County Public Defender’s Office declined to comment on the case Friday.


Citrus County Sheriff: Mom of 2-year-old Aliyah Marie Branum arrested for her murder

By Jacqueline Ingles -

May 2, 2013

CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. - Citrus County Sheriff's deputies say they've arrested the mother of 2-year-old Aliyah Marie Branum for her murder. Aliyah's mother, Chelsea Huggett, 21, is eight months pregnant with her second child.

Aliyah was found "not breathing, conscious or alert" inside the home at 1605 N. Julia Way in Hernando last Friday. Efforts to resuscitate her failed and she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

An autopsy later determined that Aliyah died as a result of excessive trauma.

According to the arrest report, when deputies arrived Huggett told them that her boyfriend--and father of her unborn child--had killed Aliyah by spraying bug spray on her. That man, who is not Aliyah's biological father, was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Deputies say the emergency room physician who treated Aliyah noted swelling and bruising on her face and that her left eye was swollen shut. Aliyah also had bleeding on her brain and did have blood and yellow fluid draining from her ears, deputies said. Aliyah was also bleeding from her nose, documents show.

Medical reports also show Aliyah had a fractured skull and bruising to her privates.

Detectives say Huggett's later admitted to shaking her daughter twice because she would not stop whining and was constantly trying to climb up and sit on her lap.

"That wasn't enough," said Sheriff Jeff Dawsy.

According to reports, Huggett then slammed Aliyah's head into the wall and then head butted her at which time the child went unconscious.

"This isn't someone who snapped. I've seen snapped and this is brutal murder," Dawsy added.

Dawsy went on to call the case "sick and twisted" because Huggett failed to take any actions to save her child. Instead, Huggett told deputies she placed Aliyah in her bed, layed down next to her and watched her die.

When a male roommate came home and noticed the child was not moving he called 911.

Huggett, who is being held without bond on homicide and aggravated child abuse charges, declined speaking to the media in the days following the murder. Her family has also declined. However, they have been very vocal online. Not only did they create a memorial slideshow but Huggett started a Facebook page titled RIP Aliyah Marie.

Deputies said when Huggett confessed to the murder she expressed sorrow and remorse.

"She apologized to Aliyah," said investigator Craig Fass.

Neighbors told ABC Action News Huggett and Aliyah recently moved in with a couple that owned the home. They said they never saw Aliyah outside and rarely would see Huggett.

Still, word of the baby's death left neighbors distraught.

"She didn't deserve death," said Renee Dranberg, a next door neighbor.

The man who owns the home, Brian Allen Jones, has been in custody since Friday on a probation violation. The Department of Children and Family Services also confirmed to ABC Action News, his two daughters, ages 7 and 9, have also been removed from the home.

Jones has not been charged in Aliyah's death. Deputies told ABC Action News he has been very cooperative.

Detectives also reached out to Aliyah's biological father. He lives in California and according to deputies Huggett met him while both were in the military.


• April 24 -- Aliyah was taken via ambulance to Citrus Memorial Hospital for an issue involving her hands being swollen. Released later that day, Aliyah returned home with her mother. Witnesses said the child had no bruises.

• April 25 -- Huggett's roommates noticed Aliyah was acting lethargic. The roommate talked with Huggett about it. According the the arrest report Huggett told her roommate Aliyah had possibly gotten into a bottle of roach killer as it had spilled in her booster seat.

• April 25 - 11 p.m.-- Huggett, acting on advice from her mother, contacted the poison control hotline. Huggett was told to take Aliyah to the hospital and the hotline worker notified Citrus Memorial Hospital a poisoned child was coming in for treatment.

• April 26 - 1 a.m.-- The poison control hotline called Huggett back after the hospital called to say the Aliyah never arrived. Huggett allegedly told the hotline employee that Aliyah was fine now and would not be seeking medical treatment.

• April 26 - 4 a.m.-- Deputies say Huggett shook Aliyah, covered her mouth with her hand to muffle the cries and then slammed Aliyah's head into the wall, playpen and then head butted the 2-year-old knocking her unconscious.


According to the Department of Children and Families, Huggett has been investigated twice for child abuse and neglect allegations.

The first allegations surfaced back in August. Officials say they closed the case because there were no indicators of abuse. At the time, Huggett was apparently offered a number of support services for assistance. Case worker reported that Huggett was cooperative and worked with them through December.

In January, another concern was presented regarding the living conditions for the child in addition to a mark on Aliya's back. Documentation shows that when seen the following day by child protection workers, Aliyah did not display any obvious signs of abuse or neglect on her body, including her back. Huggett, according to officials, accepted assistance with daycare which created better visibility for the child in the community.

The agency confirmed that Aliyah was seen just two days prior to her death by emergency medical professionals for swollen hands. At the time, doctors did not find any evidence of abuse.


DCF officials plan to meet to discuss the best possible placement for the infant upon delivery.

Any parent feeling overwhelmed, or a parent who is concerned that they may harm their child can reach out for help from DCF at 1-800-96ABUSE.



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