Donations are pouring in for the children of a Georgia woman who died while protecting her 6-month-old daughter, who survived in a toilet for roughly 13 hours after a harrowing attack earlier this month.
Jessica Arrendale, 37, is being remembered as a hero for saving the girl’s life despite being fatally shot Sept. 13 by her husband, Antoine Davis, a 30-year-old former Marine and Iraq War veteran, in their home in an Atlanta suburb. Arrendale tried to defend herself from a drunken, bat-wielding Davis, but was ultimately overpowered and struck several times, police said. The couple’s 6-month-old daughter, Cobie, also suffered traumatic head injuries and may also have been hit with the bat during the incident.
But it was what happened next that Arrendale's loved ones say showed her devotion to her child. Seeking refuge in a bathroom, the mother shielded the baby until Davis stormed in and opened fire with an assault rifle, Arrendale’s mother, Teresa Ianniello, told WSB Radio. Somehow, Arrendale was able to drop the tot into the toilet, where she remained out of Davis' view and ultimately survived for 13 hours, Ianniello said.
“He shot her and they (police) don’t know how she was able to twist her body and fall literally in the opposite direction,” Ianniello said.
The girl miraculously survived by falling into the water-filled toilet rather than onto the floor, Ianniello said.
“She had pure will,” Ianniello said. “She wanted that baby to live.”
Ianniello believes Davis intended to kill both his wife and daughter but was unable to see the injured girl since she was covered by her mother’s body. Davis then fatally shot himself.
“She was the hero because her last breath was saving the child,” Ianniello said.
The baby was discovered by authorities after officers stormed the home. Officials said the girl is being treated for head injuries and hypothermia.
A memorial service for Arrendale was held Sunday. She is survived by her two daughters, Naomi Turner, 15, and Cobie Arrendale, as well as mother Teresa Ianniello and brother Daniel Ianniello.
“An amazing mother, daughter, sister and friend was taken way too soon,” friend Leslie Tidwell Jordan wrote on GoFundMe.com, where more than $20,000 has been donated in Arrendale’s memory. “Jessica was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. This fund has been set-up for the two children that she has left behind.”