Father tries to cope with death of 2-year-old daughter - FOX Carolina 21

Father tries to cope with death of 2-year-old daughter

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(Source: Facebook) Stephen Cross with his infant daughter, Savannah, who died Tuesday while in the care of two people running an unlicensed daycare. (Source: Facebook) Stephen Cross with his infant daughter, Savannah, who died Tuesday while in the care of two people running an unlicensed daycare.
(Source: Facebook) Stephen Cross says he last saw his daughter at Easter. (Source: Facebook) Stephen Cross says he last saw his daughter at Easter.
(Source: Facebook) Savannah Cross. (Source: Facebook) Savannah Cross.

Stephen Cross last saw his 2-year-old daughter, Savannah, at Easter. Now, he is trying to come to grips with the fact he'll never see her again.

Savannah died from blunt force trauma Tuesday morning while in the care of a Phoenix couple who were running an unlicensed babysitting business out of their home, according to Phoenix police.

"I'm just doing the best that I can right now," Cross said from his Poncha Springs, CO, home during interviews with CBS 5 News on Wednesday.

Allison Ann Clement, 28, and Ryan Alan Reed, 27, were arrested by Phoenix police Wednesday and booked on charges of felony child abuse in connection with Savannah's death.

Clement and Reed had been caring for Savannah since July, and had sole custody of the girl since Nov. 23, when her mother, Ashley Dattoli dropped her off.

Police said Reed confessed to having abused the child on numerous occasions and Clement told investigators that she often witnessed the abuse, but did not try to stop it or call authorities.

"If I would have known she was being left with complete strangers for weeks on end, I would have been there in a daggone skinny minute to get my daggone daughter," Cross said. "I loved that girl so much. I miss her so much. No child should be treated that way."

Cross called his daughter loving and caring, a child who loved the TV show Dora the Explorer and would bounce up and down in front of the television while watching.

He said that when he would walk to her while she was eating and ask how her meal was, "She would pick up food and try to offer it to us. She was a very thoughtful, a very, very precious girl."

Easter was especially memorable. "When I was laying the eggs out for the third time, she was right behind me picking them up," Cross said. "I had a ball. I enjoyed every minute I spent with her."

His favorite memories, though, were simply chasing her through his house, with her giggling all the way.

Cross said the reality of his daughter's death hit him during a call Tuesday with Dattoli, in which she put a Phoenix police officer on the phone to confirm the news. "After that, it hit me pretty daggone hard," Cross said.

As for Reed and Clement, Cross said he thinks "somebody should arrange to meet with God for them. God is the only person that can practically deal with him."

He said he also blames Dattoli, who left Colorado with Savannah because the couple "didn't get along very well."

"I do believe Ashley is indirectly involved in that and I hope she gets what's coming to her, because no child deserves to be treated that way," he said.

Cross said he and his family had offered Dattoli a place to stay with their daughter.

"My family and myself have offered my trailer, paid for by me," Cross said. "My mother and father have offered numerous times, offered places to stay and childcare. It hurts me to know that (Dattoli) didn't accept any of that, (especially) knowing the circumstances now.

"It's appalling what those people have done to my child," Cross said about Reed and Clement, adding that the "full extent of law should be dropped on their foreheads."

Cross said a memorial fund in Savannah's name has been started, and Cross is now pricing lots and arranging for the funeral.

He said he would be coming to Arizona on Friday and will try to find transportation to bring his daughter to Colorado for burial.

"With this economy, it's kind hard to afford an $800 casket for my daughter," he said.

But, he said, "It's times like these when we push through and overcome our problems that make us stronger," Cross said. "I just wish Savannah was here to enjoy those times, to grow up with her family in Colorado, where she should have been in the first place."

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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SIDEBAR: Savannah Cross, daycare death

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MEMORIAL FUND: Savannah Cross Memorial Fund, Pueblo Bank and Trust Co., 200 F St., Salida, Co. 81201 READ: Daycare owners arrested after 2-year-old dies in their care (12/12/2012) READ: 2-year-old's More>>

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