Zayden JayNesahkluah weighed under 3 1/2 pounds when he was born, but he grew to be a rambunctious toddler who liked to take all of the toys out of his toy box and climb inside.
He loved to smile and he was a beautiful boy, said his father, Caleb “Bear” JayNesahkluah.
Three days before his third birthday, Zayden was found dead at a south Wichita motel where he had been staying with his mother, Kimberly Compass.
The cause of death is unknown, and his death is under investigation.
Wichita police and the Kansas Department for Children and Families are waiting on autopsy results to determine if the boy’s death was a homicide.
Zayden’s older sister was placed in protective custody. No arrests have been made, and police say they are waiting on the results of a toxicology test from his autopsy to comment on the case.
Bear JayNesahkluah is also waiting for the results. He said he’s not sure what to expect.
“If it came back that it was by fault of someone, I also want that person held accountable, no matter who it was,” he said.
“It’s really hard. I just know that no matter how it happened, it’s wrong. If it could have been prevented in any way, shape or form, I want to know why it wasn’t.”
It’s unclear what level of involvement Kansas’ child welfare agency had with Zayden or his mother. The Kansas Department for Children and Families does not publicly release records until they find a child’s death or near death was a result of abuse or neglect. That hasn’t been determined yet.
For much of his life, Zayden was raised by various family members. For about a year he was in the care of his mother’s cousin, Shelby Curry, and her then-husband, Quentin Curry.
“His mom, she would go say, ‘Can you watch him for an hour?’ and come back three days later,” she said. “That was pretty much how it went.”
When Zayden was with her, he was happy, she said.
“And that’s how people should remember him,” Curry said, pointing to a photo of Zayden smiling on the cover of his funeral program.
Curry said she doesn’t want people to remember him the way he appears in a picture that’s being shared on social media and television news, a photo that shows him with bruises on his face. It’s unclear how he got them or when the photo was taken.
Zayden is at least the ninth child age 5 or younger to die in the Wichita area under suspicious circumstances since 2017.
Evan Brewer, Lucas Hernandez, Jesslinn Hulett, Jazz Gwyn, Tony Bunn, Patrick Kempton, Brexley Franklin, Zaiden Javonovich, Zayden Jaynesahkluah — the list keeps growing.
That’s why Jessica Wright, Zayden’s relative, organized a vigil for him and all the other children on the list Sunday at O.J. Watson Park. She said it’s time to put an end to child abuse and neglect in this community.
Zayden’s family and others who wanted to support the cause came to the vigil and released blue and white balloons into the air to send their love up to him. Wright said the colors of the balloons were meant to represent child abuse awareness and Zayden’s innocence.
Wright said she’s reserving judgment about what happened to Zayden until the autopsy comes back, but added that she wants to raise awareness about child abuse and urge people to do whatever they can to prevent another child death.
“We have to stop being afraid to ask for help. We have to stop being afraid to tell people when something’s not all right,” she said.