Monica Freeland cannot get the image of the badly beaten Southwest Baltimore girl out of her head -- the eyes swollen to the size of golf balls, the cigarette marks all over the young girl's body and the large burn mark on her leg.
That's what she saw Tuesday evening, when she called police to her neighbor's apartment just three weeks after the woman had regained custody of her children.
Last night, the child, 2-year-old Serrena Coates, was upgraded from critical to fair condition and removed from the intensive care unit of Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Her mother, 25-year-old Ann "Peaches" Brown, was charged with child neglect and reckless endangerment. Ms. Brown's boyfriend, 18-year-old James "Corey" McArthur, was charged with child abuse and two counts of assault and battery.
It was the second time Ms. Brown has gotten into trouble after putting her children under the supervision of another adult.
On Aug. 28, Child Protective Services (CPS) took away two of her children, including Serrena, because Ms. Brown's cousin, who lives up the street, had allegedly left them unattended. The children, who stayed with their grandmother, were returned to Ms. Brown less than three weeks ago, Ms. Freeland said.
Sue Fitzsimmons, the spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, refused to confirm or deny recent CPS involvement with Ms. Brown's children. But Ms. Fitzsimmons said that in other cases, parents who have left their children with neglectful relatives often get their children back.
Sgt. Rob Weinhold, a police spokesman, said the abuse occurred from Oct. 12 to Oct. 17, when Ms. Brown left her children with Mr. McArthur. But Ms. Freeland said she saw Ms. Brown coming and going from her apartment during that five-day period.
On the night of Oct. 18, Ms. Brown told Ms. Freeland and another neighbor that the child had fallen off the bed and had a fever.
But Ms. Brown's friends said they knew that she was afraid of telling the police about the abuse -- afraid of losing her children again and afraid of confronting an abusive boyfriend. "She was terrified of him," 26-year-old Tangela Rice said. "The next day it all shows because she's got bruises and black eyes."
Mr. McArthur surrendered to the police with help from his mother, Patricia Drummond, who said that she believes her son had begun taking drugs in the past month and a half. As recently as last Monday, Ms. Drummond tried to get her son into a drug-treatment center.
"I don't care if I am his mother, if this was done intentionally, they need to lock him up and throw the key away," said Ms. Drummond, who seemed distraught.
"If this was done out of the pressures of being high, this boy needs helps. He needs to be in a hospital."
Ms. Drummond expressed sympathy for Ms. Brown.
"She didn't have anything to do with this," Ms. Drummond said of her son's alleged child abuse. "I feel sorry for her that she left her child with somebody who didn't even watch his own self."
Charles M. Schwinabart, the acting manager of Ms. Brown's apartment complex, said, "I held that child in my arms. . . . She's the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life. It doesn't have to end this way."