“She was just a happy kid. This is when it first happened,” says Latoya Johnson, Ki’ari’s cousin, while showing us a video of the 8-year-old smiling. “This when she was still in the hospital, she just made joy of whatever situation she was in.”
Latoya says Ki’ari accepted a dare from another cousin in March to drink boiling water—like the kids they said they were watching on a social media video.
“She felt like she’s so fearless and can do everything, and she took a big gulp,” Latoya says.
Records from state social workers say the boiling water burned her throat and mouth.
She was hospitalized, and Latoya says Ki’ari lost her ability to talk, but kept her spunk, “She can still be like, you know how she feels and what was going on. She still smiled through whatever she went through.”
Latoya says the dare happened at Ki’ari’s mom’s house in Rivera Beach. Records show, in addition to this March 31 incident, social workers responded to nine other incidents since the girl was born, including four this year alone. Two of those came when a relative was watching her.
“The baby’s mom was 13 when she had her,” says Diane Johnson, another cousin. “There was a child trying to raise a child.”
“She would get into altercations with other young mothers. They had issues where, okay, I’m going to do something I feel I can hurt you by calling DCF on you,” Diane said. “None of those cases (had) evidence where we see neglect or we see something that’s not right.”
The cousins say as recent as this Sunday, Ki’ari was slowly getting her voice back and seemed to be healthy otherwise.
“It was her cousin’s birthday party then she went home and went to sleep and they said she woke up and couldn’t breathe,” Latoya says.
The medical examiner hasn’t said yet whether Ki’ari’s injuries from the boiling water contributed to her death just after midnight Monday morning.
The case remains under investigation.
Friday night, in Boynton Beach, the family is hosting a candlelight vigil.
To help the family with funeral expenses, click here.