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Families Disagree On Coral Springs Boy’s Death

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Antwan Hope (Source: Thomas Bryant)

Antwan Hope (Source: Thomas Bryant)

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South Florida Crime

CORAL SPRINGS (CBS4) – Three days after 4 year old Antwan Hope Junior was found dead in his mother’s Coral Springs apartment, her family has issued a statement on her behalf.

The family of Destene Simmons said she is not to blame for his ‘suspicious’ death.

The statement read, in part, “We the family of Antwan Hope, Jr. and Destene Simmons are deeply grieved by the recent death of our loved one “AJ” (as he was affectionately known to everyone). At this point, we are being told by the coroner there is no apparent cause of death.  His mysterious death is inconclusive with any type of physical abuse.  We have waited until now to speak publicly because we did not know.  We did not have a report from officials or Destene.  It is our belief that Destene did not harm AJ. Destene loves AJ dearly and AJ loved his mother. Destene’s health is both personal and private, as we are sure you all respect.  However, we will assure you that Destene’s history with her only child was not of physical abuse.

Coral Springs Police responded to her apartment after receiving several 911 hangup calls.  The Broward County Medical Examiner did an autopsy on Tuesday but the results were incomplete.

Simmons was arrested on an unrelated charge of driving on a suspended license and spent Monday night in Jail.  On Tuesday, after posting bond, she was Baker Acted and taken from the North Broward Detention Center to a facility for a mental health evaluation.

But CBS 4 has learned that on two occasions, Destene Simmons tried to smother her child with a pillow.

The first incident happened a year-and-a-half ago when Simmons took the boy to a hotel and placed a pillow over his face.  A friend called authorities and Simmons was Baker Acted.

Then in June 2011 according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office event report, Simmons’ mother Shaunte Rivers called authorities during a domestic dispute. Rivers told deputies her grandson and daughter were in the bedroom and she heard ‘Antwan crying and saying, “mommy, stop.”

The report went on to read; “Rivers said she opened the door and saw Simmons holding a pilow over Antwans’ face.”

Rivers reportedly told BSO that Simmons had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression.  Simmons was taken to Imperial Point Medical Center and Baker Acted.

The family of Antwan Hope, Senior, the biological father of AJ, has been watching the events unfold.  They are grieving the little boy who just graduated from preschool two weeks ago.

“I can’t tell anyone my grandchild died of natural causes.   I have to tell them he was killed,” said Sharon Walker, the paternal grandmother of AJ.

CBS4 showed Walker the statement that Destene Simmons family has released on her behalf.

Walker shook her head in disbelief.

“I know she’s sick, but I believe she hurt him.  She tried to smother him before, the truth will come out,” said Walker.

She said she learned about her grandson’s death from the mother of Destene Simmons.

“Destene’s mom called me and she was crying and saying, ‘Destene had just killed AJ'”, Walker said.

Through all their grief both families have to find common ground in this tragedy.

They will both be involved in AJ’s burial.

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