Attacked with a hammer, third-grader died trying to defend his little sister, family says

Attacked with a hammer, third-grader died trying to defend his little sister, family says

Elizabeth Salone had been gone for only about 40 minutes, according to an arrest warrant obtained by the Sacramento Bee.

Salone, 27, had asked her ex-boyfriend, Deandre Chaney Jr., to watch her children while she dropped her brother off at work. When she returned home at about 6:10 a.m., she reportedly heard one of her children crying.

She was walking toward their bedrooms when Chaney struck her from behind with a hammer and tied her up, according to court records. Chaney was dousing the three-bedroom home with lighter fluid when the mother of three escaped to a neighbor's house, where she called the police, her sister Latasha Robinson said.

Detectives are still piecing together a timeline of the events that led to the death of 8-year-old Dante Daniels.

The criminal complaint filed Sept. 15 by the Sacramento County District Attorney alleged that Chaney was "engaged in the crime of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child" when he beat Dante with the hammer.

Robinson said Dante tried to defend his younger sister from Chaney, who was allegedly sexually assaulting the 7-year-old. That's when Chaney, 23, retrieved a hammer, which he used to brutally beat both of the children, their aunt said.

Sacramento police said they cannot confirm the details provided by his family until the investigation is complete.

Dante was rushed to the hospital, where he was declared brain dead. Six days later, he died.

"This guy beat my grandson with a hammer. Down to his spine. They couldn't save his brain," Dante's grandmother, Monique Brown, told local station Fox 40.

His younger sister is recovering — and already talking about going back to school, said Robinson, a 33-year-old property manager.

Before Salone escaped, Chaney took her car keys, cellphone and some cash before driving off in her car, her sister said.

After cutting his parolee ankle monitor, Chaney boarded an Amtrack train to Salt Lake City, according to his arrest warrant. But he was arrested about four hours away in Winnemucca, Nevada, where authorities found him wrapped in a tarp inside a shed on Sept. 2.

Salone, whose left eye was badly damaged during the attack, has the guilt that any mother would, Robinson said.

She said she keeps getting texts from her sister saying, "I promise I did not know."

"We can't understand why he did it," Robinson said. "Why all of a sudden this man would grab a hammer and start beating kids up. I asked my sister whether she noticed anything, and she said no."

She and Salone raised Dante "hand in hand" with her son, who is just a few weeks older than Dante was, Robinson said.

"When his feelings were hurt, he would walk into the corner and wait for one of us to come over and give him a hug," she said. "He was our emotional kid."

Brown, Dante's grandmother, described her grandson as a "sensitive" third-grader who loved baseball and "didn't play with kids that were rough."

Chaney was arraigned on charges of murder and attempted murder during a hearing Sept. 15. Prosecutors also added a new charge, alleging that he had sexually violated one of the children, according to the Sacramento Bee.

It was not immediately clear whether Chaney has an attorney in the case.

Salone, her mother and other family members called out "coward" and "he killed my grandson," when Chaney entered the courtroom on Sept. 15, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Their anger quickly turned to sobbing, and Salone was escorted from the courtroom supported by her family.

Chaney's prior felony convictions — from a first degree burglary and battery with serious bodily injury in 2014 — make him eligible for a three-strikes life sentence, according to criminal complaint filed by the Sacramento County district attorney's office.

The 23-year-old pleaded no contest to a charge of failing to register as a sex offender in October 2016. As a juvenile, he was charged with second-degree robbery in 2007; rape and forced oral copulation in 2007; forced oral copulation in 2008; and lewd acts with a dependent adult as a caretaker in 2009, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Chaney's next hearing is on Oct. 27. No trial date has been set, according to a spokesperson for the district attorney's office.


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