JAMESTOWN – Exactly four years ago today, 16-month-old Nayla Hodentt died at Buffalo Women’s and Children’s Hospital just hours after she was transferred from WCA because of injuries she sustained during a beating.
Jamestown Police ruled her death a homicide by blunt force trauma just days later, and began to build their case around the mother, Angel Hodnett, and her boyfriend Tyler Perez, as persons of interest in her death, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the case.
On May 1st, 2014, Perez was taken into custody and charged by Pennsylvania law enforcement authorities with being a fugitive from justice.
Sources with direct knowledge of the Hodnett case, who wished not to be named because the case is still open, tell WNYNewsNow that Jamestown Police ran into several obstacles trying to convince then-District Attorney David Foley that there was enough evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Tyler Perez murdered Nayla Hodentt.
According to a source, Foley was eyeing his next move as County Judge and didn’t want to risk losing a high-profile case so close to the election.
Nayla’s Aunt, Camille Hodnett, who now has custody of Nayla’s brother Ezra, who was only three-years-old at the time his sister was murdered, said she is holding Chautauqua County accountable for her niece’s murder.
“Whose to say somebody else’s child won’t endure the same type of violence that Nayla did,” Hodnett said. “Speak out for these babies, justice for Nayla.”
Last Summer, Camille made t-shirts that read,”#Justice4Nayla,” in an effort to raise awareness about the Nayla’s death.
That effort has derived from a community who has seemingly become numb to news of child abuse cases.
“She’s in heaven with Jesus right now,” said Hodnett. “We’re trying to move on but we can’t. We don’t want to just deal and cope; we want justice for Nayla.”
In May of 2015, Senator Cathy Young requested that Sheila Poole, the acting commissioner of the state’s Office of Children and Family Services, probe possible allegations or incidents of abuse against Nayla prior to her death.
“All we are asking for is justice for Nayla and that the silent voices speak out for the children,” said Hodnett.
Current District Attorney Patrick Swanson, who is familiar with Hodnett’s case, told WNYNewsNow that he has no plans to go after her killer unless new evidence emerges in the case.