A mother charged with murdering her two-year-old daughter ordered photos with the child she allegedly beat to death appearing as an angel at her grave.
Jeanie Ditty, 23, of Spring Lake North Carolina, who has been an active soldier at Fort Bragg since 2013, has been accused of neglecting and killing Macy Grace, and faces the death penalty if convicted.
Police were called when the youngster was taken to hospital covered in bruises and with life-threatening injuries consistent with child abuse, two days before she died on December 4, 2015.
Exactly a month after Macy Grace’s death, Ditty went to Pennsylvania photographer Sunny Jo and asked for images depicting her reading, walking and sitting with her daughter.
Mr Jo obliged, as he first thought he was helping a grieving mother, and has completed hundreds of similar requests in the past as part of his One More Time series.
Then, when he asked Ditty how the girl died, she said the youngster had choked on a banana when she had a stomach ache.
He told the Daily Mail Online that Ditty showed him a photo of Macy Grace she wanted to use. She then said she wanted a picture of them reading her favorite book, The Giving Tree, together.
Mr Jo said he could work with it, and started taking the pictures. After finishing the shoot, he decided not to charge Ditty because of the tragic circumstances.
But he then found out she was arrested.
‘People started sharing the story on Facebook,’ he told Daily Mail Online. ‘I asked myself: “How could she do this?”
‘I then felt disgusted by what I had done. People started calling me a mockery and I started to lose sleep over what happened.
‘I look like the bad guy, even though initially did it to help out a grieving mother. It blew up in my face.
‘It’s hard knowing your work is attached to something so brutal.
Despite the negative response, the photographer decided to share the pictures after sending all of them to a detective looking into the case.
The reason I am open and talking is because this girl was killed brutally and she doesn’t have a voice.
‘This whole thing is a tribute for Macy Grace.’
When the court case is done with, he has insisted he will delete the images, but plans to replace them with a new photo of Macy Grace.
Mr Jo started taking the pictures five years ago, when his father died of cancer.
After the funeral, he took one of the images home and photo shopped his late dad standing beside him, and it made him feel happy.
‘It is a way for people to see their loved ones for the last time,’ he said. ‘Even though they aren’t there, loved ones know they are watching.’
Ditty is charged with first-degree murder and negligent child abuse and inflicting serious bodily injury for the death of Macy.
Her boyfriend Zachary Earl Keefer has also been charged with the same counts Thursday.
In their first court hearing Monday, a judge told them they face the death penalty or life in prison if they are convicted.
The pair live in an apartment complex in the 500 block of Village Lake Court in Spring Lake, North Carolina.
Police were called to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center on December 2 of last year in relation to an unresponsive child.
The young child was then transferred to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill.
In the 24 hours after she was admitted to the medical center, police determined they were likely from abuse.
Fayetteville police obtained warrants for charging Ditty and Keefer the next day. Ditty was then arrested last Thursday evening and is now being held at the Cumberland County Detention Center along with Keefer, both without bond, police said. Their next court date is April 14
District Attorney Billy West told ABC 11 : ‘It’s a tough case, you know this child did not die of natural causes.
‘And it’s heart-wrenching to think that this could happen to a young child this way and we are going to do everything we can to see that justice is done in this case.’
Fort Bragg officials said Ditty is a member of the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade and that she would remain active even while she is under investigation.
Keefer is not the father of the child.