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Tragic Details Of Girl's Death Shock Neighbors, Police

CHICAGO (STMW) -- While a north suburban neighborhood remained in shock Monday over the death of an 11-year-old girl, some neighbors also expressed surprise to learn that Raasania Coley had been living on their block.

Terry Banks, who has lived next to Raasania's family in the Waukegan neighborhood for about a year, said he didn't even know a third child was living in the Gillett Avenue two-flat, the News-Sun is reporting.

"I never saw [Raasania]," said Banks, explaining that he would often see two younger children playing in front of the home on the 300 block of Gillett.

Police were called to the quiet neighborhood just after 9 p.m. Friday for a report of an unresponsive child. Raasania was pronounced dead later that night at Vista East Medical Center.

Doctors reported malnutrition, old scarring and bruises, said Cynthia Vargas, a spokeswoman for the Lake County State's Attorney's office. Authorities determined the death was the result of blunt force trauma.

The girl's mother, Nicholette R. Lawrence, 32, told investigators she had struck her daughter in the stomach earlier that week, police said. A preliminary autopsy showed the punch went all the way to her spine and caused a tear in the stomach.

Lawrence was charged with first-degree murder and is being held at the Lake County Jail on $5 million bond, police said.

On Monday, police released additional details about the girl's death and a previous visit to the family's home.

Waukegan Sgt. Cory Kelly said the 11-year-old weighed only 60 pounds, and the home was found to be a mess when officers arrived with a search warrant after the death.

"The home was dirty and they found vomit that had not been cleaned up," Kelly said. "The defendant also admitted to beating the girl with an extension cord in the past.

"One officer said this was the most tragic thing he had ever seen in his 24 years of service."

Police responded to the home on June 21 after an anonymous caller reported a child may have been beaten. But Kelly said that case was still open and declined to provide details about what officers found that night.

Lawrence had two other children, both with a different man, who also lived at the home, according to police.

Neighbors reported seeing those two children but not Raasania, whose biological father's whereabouts were still being investigated by police on Monday.

When asked about Raasania's father and stepfather, police would only say the investigation remains ongoing.

In March of 2012, Lawrence wrote on her Facebook page that she couldn't sleep because her "oldest daughter is really difficult."

When someone asked about that post, Lawrence replied that her daughter "lies all the time jealous of the younger kids but i guess thats normal," according to the Facebook post.

Another Facebook post a month earlier read "My life.,,, please pray for my family and I. It's impossible to do this alone."

Relatives are watching Lawrence's younger daughter and son.

When asked about the children's mother, Banks said "she never seemed in a bad mood."

But he added that he only saw Lawrence walking the two youngest to the nearby bus stop. The two children "didn't seem apprehensive to be with her. She looked like she loved those kids when walking them to the bus stop," he said.

"That's why everyone's been thrown off," Banks said, referring to neighbors. "She didn't come across like that, she always seemed in good spirits.

"That's why it rocked everyone's world."

According to Waukegan Public Schools, Raasania was pulled out of school during the 2012-13 school year.

Lawrence is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 30.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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