ROCK HILL — The little girl with the wide smile would have turned 1 on Thursday. She would have eaten cupcakes.
Thats the way it should have been for Madison Stewart.
Instead, shes up there with God, said Doris Mode, Madisons great-grandmother, forming her hands like a cradle. Gods carrying her.
Shell never fade, said Kimberly Stewart, feet from where her young niece is laid to rest.
Madison died Sept. 20 after she suffered severe head injuries police say were inflicted by Jeffery Todd Bradley, 27, an Iraq War veteran now charged with homicide by child abuse. He is being held without bond at the Chester County Detention Center.
Deputies and family members have said that Bradley was the boyfriend of Penny Stewart, Madisons mother. They had lived together since April in a mobile home on Hardin Strait Road near Lowrys.
On Sept. 18, Madison was taken by helicopter to Levine Childrens Hospital in Charlotte. Bradley initially told police she had been electrocuted after putting a phone-charging cable in her mouth. He later told investigators she had fallen.
After he called for help, Bradley performed CPR on Madison for about 11 minutes, according to a recording of the call he made.
Police charged Bradley when it became apparent that his account of events was inconsistent with the childs injuries a fractured skull, internal brain bleeding and kidney injuries.
Madison died two days later.
On Thursday, family members huddled around Madisons grave at Grandview Memorial Park in Rock Hill, where her burial place is adorned with three pink balloons and a brown teddy bear grasping a bouquet of red flowers.
Her young cousins held balloons that bobbed in the wind.
Some balloons were adorned with Disney princesses Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Others simply said, Princess, while another read Happy Birthday, with multicolored cupcakes.
Notes addressed to Madison were tied to the ends of each balloon. One, from Aunt Samantha Redmonds son, Tristan, read: Happy Birthday Madi. We love you. Tell PawPaw Redmon (sic) we love him too.
Tristans paternal grandfather died in 2006. He never met him. He did know his cousin Madison.
Tony Stewart, Madisons grandfather, said Bradleys alleged actions have now thrown their lives into turmoil.
There are no court hearings scheduled, said Bradleys lawyer, 6th Circuit Public Defender Mike Lifsey. He said his office just recently received evidentiary materials from the solicitors office, and will conduct its own investigation. He declined further comment.
Feet from where Madison is laid to rest, three of her aunts and two of her grandparents wore Madicakes shirts. Madisons smiling face is emblazoned on the back, while a blue ribbon on the front lobbies against child abuse.
Family members hope to spread their message and help other families avoid the same pain. They also want to make sure Madicakes is never forgotten.
When Redmond and Kimberly Stewart decided to release balloons in Madisons honor, their children had bigger plans in mind.
They wanted to get a helicopter and send her a piece of cake, Redmond said.
We still love her and (her cousins) still want to be a part of her birthday, Redmond said.
Telling Madisons cousins about where she is now is not easy, the family says. One cousin asked if the family could get a second chance because they never did any wrong by Madison, Redmond said.
Another said, Madis an angel now.
It broke my heart, said Madisons grandmother, Patricia Noe. I miss my baby. She was our angel. I miss her bad.
Tony Stewart buried his father and a stillborn son in Grandview Memorial Park. He has worked as a private investigator and a repo man.
But this right here... he said, wiping at his eyes. He didnt finish the sentence.
After 3 p.m. the time Madison was born on Oct. 17, 2012 family members sang Happy Birthday to her and released the balloons into the overcast sky.
Theyre close to heaven, Julius, said little Tony Stewart, Madisons 6-year-old cousin, as he watched the balloons disappear.
Another cousin, 5-year-old Julius Stewart, wearing a Spider-Man shirt, said: Theyre almost there, aint they?
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082