Kayden Mancuso’s family became worried when the 7-year-old didn’t return after a weekend stay at her biological father’s house.
Jeff Mancuso had custody of his young daughter from 10 p.m. Saturday to Sunday at 6 p.m., according to WPVI. But the girl’s mother, whom family say had a restraining order against the man, had long been fighting for sole custody of her child.
It was a long and “contentious custody battle,” family told CBS. So when the girl still hadn’t come back by Monday morning, some of Kayden’s family, including her stepfather, went to Jeff Mancuso’s house to check on her, police say.
A GoFundMe page created by a family member alleges that “Kayden’s step father found her with no help of the Philadelphia police department.”
“When they reached out to the police after she was never returned home, they were told that ‘she was probably just out with her father,’ and that they were unable to do anything without a warrant,” the page says. “Following their instincts, her step father and grandfather went back to the house of her biological father.”
They found both the 7-year-old and her father dead in an apparent murder-suicide, authorities told CBS. Kayden had a bag over her head, police say, and there was a note found within the tragic scene.
It’s something that Kayden’s family long feared could happen, the girl’s aunt Heather Giglio told WPVI.
“We knew this was gonna happen one day,” Giglio said. “We just prayed it wouldn’t.”
“She was talented. She was an athlete. She was a dancer. She sang. She did everything,” she told Fox29. “She got straight A’s and now she doesn’t get to do any of that. Now we don’t get to know what she becomes.”
Matthew Moffett, Kayden’s godfather, told WPVI that Jeff Mancuso was a violent man who “pushed (the girl’s mother) off the stool when she was pregnant with Kayden.” Moffett added that “he bit people’s ears off in bars.”
Jeff Mancuso had also been charged with aggravated assault in the past, CBS reporter Anito Oh reported.
“As far as red flags go, you wouldn’t find a guy with more red flags,” family member Kerrin Paul told CBS.
Yet he still had custody of the child during part of the weekend. Giglio told Fox29 that the murder-suicide was made possible because the judicial system “treated my sister like she was just this bitter woman who didn’t like her ex.”
“Like she just wanted to get back at her ex,” she continued. “She knew he was dangerous. We knew he was violent.”
The family’s GoFundMe, which has already surpassed its goal of $25,000, pinned much of the blame for Kayden’s death on the judicial system.
“Kayden’s mother trusted that the law and the court system would work for her daughter’s best interests,” the page says. “However, the system failed and she was taken too soon. Kayden’s mother was told to trust the process, but the door was slammed in her face time after time.”
“Kayden’s biological father had a violent and storied history, yet the courts still allowed for modified visitation.”
Now the girl’s family are left with bittersweet memories of their time with Kayden.
“She had so much spark to her,” Giglio said in a TV interview with WPVI. “She was just our princess and our angel and there’s nothing we can do at this point to get her back.”