A horrible story has resurfaced the Internet lately, and we are still heartbroken over the account.
On October 29, 2013, at about 9 a.m., Autumn Elgersma's mother was called to come into the in-home daycare ran by Rochelle Sapp. Sapp told Jennifer that her daughter had fallen down some stairs and had sustained a head injury.
Jennifer rushed her daughter to the Orange City hospital, where Autumn was later airlifted to Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls in North Dakota. After several tests, the doctors told Jennifer that her daughter had a fractured skull and brain trauma. Autumn was in a coma for two days before she died from her injuries. Autumn passed away on October 31, 2013. She was only three years old.
"Our family is deeply saddened by the loss of our little girl. The prayers offered by others on our behalf are giving us the strength to get through this very difficult time. Autumn was a joy in our lives, and we are blessed to have called her ours," said her parents Philip and Jennifer Elgersma in a statement. "We take comfort in the fact that she is now with her Savior, Jesus Christ. We ask for your continued thoughts and prayers for our family."
According to a Facebook post, neighbors remembered precious Autumn as "a bubbly little girl who loved to be around people."
"She was just fun to be around, and we're going to miss her a lot," next-door neighbor Bev Rohrs said. "She was just adorable, cute as a bug in a rug."
Sapp, who initially claimed that Autumn fell down the stairs, was the woman who actually killed her. The truth came out during court when she confessed what really happened.
Sapp killed Autumn because she could not take off her jacket. She became angry with her when Autumn couldn't take off her coat by herself and that she wouldn't ask for help. Sapp picked her up and threw her to the floor causing her to hit her head.
During this time, the family discovered that Sapp had been abusing their daughter for months before her death. The charge of multiple acts of child neglect was mentioned in four incidents in which Autumn was injured. Jennifer said in a statement that she always believed Sapp's explanation of the bloody lips, split chin, and a black eye Autumn sustained while in her care.
"You used my trust and your skill as a master manipulator to take away one of the most precious things to me," Elgersma said as she fought back the tears. "I was unable to protect Autumn from you because I trusted you and did everything I could to be your friend."
In the plea agreement, Sapp pleaded guilty in Sioux County District Court the following year. Sapp, who was initially charged with first-degree murder, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment resulting in death and child endangerment - multiple acts.
Sapp was sentenced to 100 years in prison and had agreed to pay $150,000 in restitution to the Elgersma family.
What the Elgersma family was really hoping for during that day in court was an apology.
"We're disappointed she didn't even say she was sorry to our family," Autumn's aunt, Rachel Lamfers, said. "We did not get that today. It's something we really needed and wanted. I honestly don't think she will ever tell the truth about what happened."
This is such a tragic story. Will you please keep the Elgersma family in your thoughts and prayers?