Toddler Dies Days Before Her 3rd Birthday, Then Babysitter's Boyfriend Is Accused of Murder
Benjamin Brown and Brandi Giannunzio have been charged in connection with the death of 2-year-old Annie Shell in Hixson, Tennessee
Brandi Giannunzio was babysitting 2-year-old Annie Burkett Shell and her younger sister in Hamilton County, Tennessee, on Aug. 9 when something went very very wrong.
Giannunzio, 26, called 911 to report that Annie was suffering a seizure. Responding paramedics rushed the toddler to a nearby hospital, where doctors determined that her seizures were a result of blunt force trauma to the head.
She died 12 days later, a week before her third birthday. Annie’s younger sister was unharmed.
Late last month, a grand jury indicted the person allegedly responsible for the toddler’s death: Giannunzio’s boyfriend, 27-year-old Benjamin Brown.
He is charged with felony murder and aggravated child abuse, PEOPLE confirms. Giannunzio is charged with making false reports and accessory after the fact.
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A motive for the suspected abuse is unclear.
According to local TV station WRCB, Giannunzio was a longtime family friend. The toddler’s grandparents had dropped off Annie and her younger sister at Giannunzio’s home for about five months.
The family did not know Brown.
Neither Giannunzio nor Brown have entered a plea and have both bonded out of jail.
They will be arraigned on Friday morning. Court records do not show attorneys authorized to speak on their behalf, and they did not return PEOPLE’s calls for comment.
Annie’s death has left her family grappling with what remains unknown in the homicide case.
“We honestly don’t know what happened, other than they have enough evidence to file charges,” Annie’s grandmother Tiffany Shell told WTVC.
Annie’s relatives described her as an intelligent, sunny child with a pleasant disposition.
Said grandfather David Shell: “Her not being around here is tearing our family apart.”