Grandmother of slain Gwinnett girl: “They threw my baby out like she was trash”

The last time Robin Moss saw her granddaughter, on Mother’s Day, she barely recognized the girl she had raised as her own for five years.

More than a year had passed since Moss had seen Emani, whose charred remains were found stuffed in a trash can early Saturday morning outside her Lawrenceville apartment. Police say the 10-year-old had been starved to death by her parents. Eman and Tiffany Moss, who have been charged with felony murder and are being held without bond at the Gwinnett County Detention Center.

“They threw my baby out like she was trash. I don’t understand how this could happen,” said Moss, adding her son and his new wife had kept Emani from her after the little girl started dropping hints that she was being abused.

During that time, Robin Moss said she went to police and to the Division of Family and Children Services pleading for them to intercede. Though she lacked concrete evidence, “I knew things weren’t right,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday.

‘They kept dropping the ball,” said her attorney, Mike Jones.

In a statement released early Tuesday evening, Sharon Hill, director of the Department of Human Services Division of Family and Children Services, said an internal review is underway to examine the agency’s handling of Emani’s case. They also said they would review the circumstances of the death of 12-year-old Eric Forbes, whose father told authorities the boy had drowned inside their Paulding County home last month. Further investigation found Eric had been severely abused and his father, Shayaa Yusef Forbes, was charged with his murder.

“The Department of Human Services Division of Family and Children Services and the Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General will continue to investigate the agency’s involvement in the lives of these two children, and DFCS’ actions after every report of abuse will be under the toughest scrutiny,” Hill said.

In early 2011, the agency signed off on a plea deal for Emani’s stepmother, Tiffany Moss, who had been charged with cruelty to children after a counselor at the girl’s school noticed several marks on her body. Tiffany Moss was sentenced to five years probation for beating her stepdaughter with a belt but she and her husband retained custody of Emani after completing parenting classes.

While the case was being adjudicated, Emani returned to to live with her grandmother. Robin Moss had raised Emani until 2009, when her son newly married, took custody of his six-year-old daughter, telling his mother he wanted his family intact.

“I tried to talk him out of it,” Robin Moss said. “I just didn’t feel like it was a good situation for her.”

Tiffany Moss was arrested just a few months later.

Emani seemed like a different girl when she moved back in.

“She was the happiest little girl,” Robin Moss said Tuesday, recalling how Emani used to sing and dance around the house and preach sermons to her dolls and stuffed animals.

Now, she was acting out at school, standing up in the middle of class and screaming, without provocation, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” according to her grandmother. She was also having trouble sleeping.

“I begged my son to let me keep her, but they took her back in after five months,” Robin Moss said. She then lost contact with her son and granddaughter, talking to Emani just once on the phone.

“Please help me,” the girl told her grandmother.

But Robin Moss didn’t even know where her son and his family were living. Police said her parents took her out of school and, over the last weeks of her life, “isolated” her. Neighbors at the Lawrenceville apartment complex where she died said they had never even seen Emani.

On that surprise Mother’s Day visit from her son and stepdaughter — their first in more than a year — Robin Moss said her granddaughter was unusually reserved.

“I could look into her eyes and see that something was wrong,” she said.

As they walked out the door, heading for home, Emani turned and ran back to her grandmother to tell her she loved her. Her last words to Robin Moss proved tragically prophetic.

“You may never see me again,” Emani told her.

“Emani had a silent cry,” Robin Moss said. “But she’s talking loud now and I’m going to make sure everyone hears what she has to say.”