Sofia VanSchoick was found dead on Monday outside her family's home after spending hours outdoors in freezing temperatures
A New Hampshire mother is devastated after her 2-year-old daughter wandered out of the family’s new home and died in the freezing temperatures.
Courtney VanSchoick says she’s been trying to stay strong since her daughter, Sofia VanSchoick, was found dead on the porch of the family’s Newport home on Monday after spending several hours outside in the cold.
“I honestly don’t know how I’ve managed to keep going,” the grieving single mom, 20, tells PEOPLE. “I woke this morning for the first time without my baby girl and her twin brother has been looking for her since he woke up.”
Courtney says Sofia often wakes from her sleep and wanders into her room at night. But Sofia wandered outside early Monday morning without Courtney knowing and was unable to get back into the home, police said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. She remained outside for hours, and the temperature was just -8 degrees when Sofia was found.
Courtney says the front door of the home was locked and the little girl must have unlocked it on her own.
“I didn’t know she could open the door,” she says of Sofia, noting that the family had just moved into the home a week before the death.
Neighbor Shane Rowe and his girlfriend, who recalled hearing cries as early as 4 a.m., found the girl’s body just steps away from the front door, according to WISN.
“I saw a little girl next to the bottom of the stairway. I said to myself, ‘I hope that’s a doll,’ ” Rowe told WISN. “My girlfriend came out, and she ran out and she went over and saw that she was actually a child. She banged on the door to alert the parents.”
Courtney says the banging woke her up, and she looked around for the little girl.
“I looked around for her and couldn’t find her as I was going to answer the door. Then the thought popped into my mind and I ran outside and she was face down at the bottom of the porch steps,” Courtney tells PEOPLE.
“I couldn’t breathe — all I wanted was to hold her in my arms. I ran and picked her up.”
When medics arrived, they performed CPR on the child in an attempt to save her life. Courtney says she was told to wait in the ambulance with her son, and when medics met with her, she knew her daughter had not survived.
Preliminary results of an autopsy suggest Sofia died as a result of exposure to the elements and hypothermia, according to the police statement.
“An EMT came into the ambulance and didn’t say a word. I knew right then that she didn’t make it,” Courtney says. “I just held my son tighter. [The hardest part has been] waking up this morning and getting clothes for one child instead of two.”
“I loved everything about her,” she says. “Looking into her deep blue eyes and feeling my heart just melt. Never being able to hear her little voice again, that’s what I am going to miss most is never hearing her say ‘mom’ again.”
The death is being investigated by Newport police and the Sullivan County Attorney’s Office. Newport Police Chief Jim Burroughs told Valley News that the death is not considered suspicious but “appears to be a bad accident.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family.