On the day after Father’s Day, Safiyyah Landry said goodbye to her five-year-old daughter, Daviana, as she sent her little sidekick from their home in Louisiana to visit her godmother, 32-year-old Brenika Lott, who lived in Texas. Brenika originally grew up in Thibodeaux, Louisiana, and her mother still lives right down the street from the Landry family.
Brenika, a close friend of Safiyyah’s, had been a part of Daviana’s life since the little girl was born, and Daviana was very excited to visit her “Nana,” whom she had begged to accompany home after Brenika came to Thibodeaux to visit her mother. This wouldn’t be the first time Brenika had been trusted with her goddaughter, and Daviana’s family had no reason whatsoever to suspect that their little Dae Dae was in anything less but good hands.
Less than a week later, Daviana was dead, and her “Nana” has been charged with capital murder.
Around noon on Friday, June 26, 2020, fire department personnel in Orange, Texas were summoned to the Lott home at 712 10th Street, where they found Brenika performing CPR on her unresponsive five-year-old goddaughter, who was naked and covered in bruises on her arms, chest, and face, and her eyes were bruised and appeared to be swollen shut. Based on the little girl’s condition, police believe Daviana had been dead for “an amount of time” prior to their arrival.
Brenika and her 11-year-old son were taken to the Orange Police Department, during which both were interviewed by detectives. Brenika told the investigators that when she awoke that morning, she found Daviana lying on the living room floor, nude. She told them she woke her son, told him to call 911, and began performing CPR on Daviana.
The probable cause affidavit in the case states, “During the interview, Lott informed detectives that Daviana had been staying with her for over a week and is the daughter of a close friend from Thibodeaux, Louisiana. Lott informed detectives that during Daviana’s stay, the only people who resided or visited her house were her and her 11-year-old son. When asked about the injuries to Daviana, she reported that they were from dust mites.”
Hold up. DUST MITES?! That’s a brand new entry in the “ridiculous excuses” book.
The affidavit continues, “Lott reported that she treated Daviana’s insect bites with Calamine lotion. Lott reported that Daviana had also sustained a minor injury to the back of her head, which she had treated with liquid band aid. Lott reported Daviana had sustained the injury from playing on a slip and slide, in the back yard, on Thursday, June 25 and that it was only a minor scratch.”
The autopsy performed on Daviana seemed to disagree with Brenika’s assessment of the severity of her dead goddaughter’s injuries, indicating the “preliminary cause of death of Daviana Landry was determined to be craniocerebral trauma, to include skull fractures, subdural hemorrhage, and brainstem contusions. The preliminary manner of death was ruled Homicide.” Daviana had also suffered bruises on her arms, chest, and face. The medical examiner’s opinion was that Daviana’s injuries had been caused by blunt force trauma.
In addition, Brenika’s own son “stated Lott punched Daviana in the head with her hands, multiple times. When asked clarifying details about the assault, the 11-year-old stated Lott pushed Daviana, slapped her, and choked her. The 11-year-old also stated that Lott hit Daviana with multiple objects and kicked her.”
In light of these findings, investigators invited Brenika back to the police department on Monday, June 29 for a friendly little chat, confronting her with the autopsy results and even showing her photographs taken during the autopsy of Daviana’s traumatic injuries. Brenika doubled down, ignoring the medical examiner’s rulings and insisting the injuries were caused by insect bites.
KFDM reported that Brenika also tried to pin Daviana’s injuries on her own son.
Brenika was arrested the same day, charged with capital murder of a child under 10, and booked into jail, accused of causing Daviana’s death by slapping her, pushing her, choking her, kicking her, and hitting her with multiple objects. She is being held on a $1 million bond.
Detectives obtained a search warrant in addition to the voluntary consent to search form Brenika had already signed. Brenika’s 11-year-old son, according to authorities, identified several objects his mother had used to attack Daviana.
Orange Police Captain Robert Enmon told the Beaumont Enterprise that police were still investigating the circumstances surrounding Daviana’s death and testing multiple objects that may have been used in the murder.
“She had my baby more than one time,” Daviana’s maternal grandmother, Alice Landry, told a reporter, “and I would have never, ever suspected anything like this, because she loved my baby.”
“It had to take a lot for this to happen, where she had no control.”
Little did the Landry family know that Brenika’s neighbors would later describe her as a struggling mom. One neighbor said that Brenika, her husband, and her son had moved into the neighborhood about six years ago. After Brenika’s husband left, the neighbor said, the woman seemed to “become more stressed.”
“She wasn’t working,” the neighbor told the Enterprise. “She said she was going to beauty school until it closed due to COVID.”
During quarantine, Brenika’s behavior became worse, the neighbor reported. “She was constantly yelling at her little boy. She would berate him. She would ask him why he was being so stupid and saying he should know how to do things. He’s a special needs child. He is deaf and very sweet. He has been in and out of all of our homes. He and his friends know where all of our water hoses are, and they would just grab one when they need a drink.”
Brenika’s son has been taken into custody by Child Protective Services, according to Captain Enmon, who would not specify if the boy showed signs of abuse.
Daviana’s mother, Safiyyah, was devastated by the death of her daughter. Family friend Ashley Tolbert told WWLTV, “She usually has her with her, by her side. So that kind of disappeared. That’s one main focus that keeps her crying, because she’s so used to that love and that bond that her and her daughter had.”
One of Brenika’s friends also spoke with a reporter about the situation. “I wouldn’t understand what went through her mind to do something like this to a five-year-old,” said Lynnotta Kennedy, who said she grew up with Brenika, “but her little boy has my prayers, as well. Like, it’s a very sad situation.”
Lynnotta said her outlook has changed after hearing about what happened to Daviana. “This makes it hard to trust people. When you pick a godparent, you trust that person, and if you can’t trust a [godparent], who can you trust?”
Safiyyah’s sister, Pertiyyah, spoke with the Beaumont Enterprise the day after Brenika’s arrest, telling the newspaper that Daviana was a “bright child who never knew a stranger.”
“If you walked into the house and she didn’t know who you are, she would get to know you,” Pertiyyah reminisced about her niece. “She would always ask why I am over at her house.”
(How cute is that? I can just imagine this tiny, precocious, curious little girl questioning her aunt.)
“This was the second time [Daviana] had stayed with [Brenika],” Pertiyyah said. “The first time was for a couple of days, and no one thought twice about her going again. No one thought this would happen. She didn’t deserve that at all.”
Pertiyyah said that Daviana would make TikTok videos with her two-year-old daughter and that she will continue to watch them to keep her niece’s memory alive. She said she will always remember Daviana’s smile and personality.
Daviana, who would have started kindergarten in the fall, has been described as energetic, outgoing, and spunky.
A vigil and balloon release was held on July 2 in front of the house where Daviana died.
Daviana was buried on Saturday, July 11 in the Old Fountain Baptist Church Cemetery in Thibodeaux, Louisiana. She leaves behind her mother, Safiyyah Landry; her father, David Duncan; four brothers; three sisters; and several extended family members.
Rest well, Daviana.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Daviana’s case.
Sources: KFDM, WWLTV, The Beaumont Enterprise, PEOPLE, 12NewsNow