A 22-year-old Jacksonville man was arrested Tuesday in the death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter last year.
Edgardo Reyes-Delgado (pictured below) is charged with murder in Noelani Marmolejo's death Oct. 31. Police said she died from abusive head trauma typically associated with shaken baby syndrome.
In an exclusive interview with News4Jax on Wednesday night, Marmolejo's father shared his heartbreaking story.
"It still seems unreal, you know? I still have days where I wake up in the middle of the night and I cry and it’s just unreal,” Lindsey Chaney said.
He said the arrest comes at a bittersweet time, because his daughter’s third birthday would have been Monday. And while there is now a sense of comfort for him, there is also a lot of anger.
Chaney was in the middle of a custody battle at the time and was supposed to be with his little girl the night she died.
"It was very difficult," Chaney said. "For many nights, I blamed myself. It was something hard to swallow. It was a tough pill. Sometimes I just think if I would've had her, things would've been a lot different."
Jacksonville police said Reyes-Delgado was taking care of the girl while her mother was at work. Police said he admitted he was the sole caregiver at the time, which allowed investigators to eventually arrest him.
Police said the mother works close by to where the family lived in the 4800 block of Atlantic Boulevard on the Southside.
"The suspect went over to visit the mother and asked for some medication for a fever that the child may have," said Assistant Chief Christopher Butler, with Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. "The suspect then left, telephoned the mother probably five minutes after he left her originally and reported that the child was not breathing. She returned home. They immediately transported the child to the hospital and the child died."
Chaney described the moment he learned his daughter had died.
"I never received a phone call," he said. "On Nov. 1 I received a text message on Facebook from her mother letting me know that my daughter had passed away and I need to come to the hospital."
While Chaney said he plans to attend Reyes' upcoming trial, he continues to find strength in his daughter's smile and said he knows his little butterfly is now an angel watching over him.
Police said Reyes-Delgado and the girl's mother dated for about a year. They said he lived with the mother and daughter for about three months.
Chaney said he never saw any signs of abuse on his daughter. But he said he wants anyone dealing with a blended family to make sure they stay vigilant, look for those signs and keep those lines of communication open.
There’s no word yet on when Reyes will go on trial.