Grandmother, Dad Fight for Justice for Baby Allegedly Killed by Mom's Boyfriend: 'She Couldn't Even Defend Herself'
Every day, David Tucke visits his little girl.
He brings her flowers and pinwheels and thinks back on how her first word was “dada.”
He reminisces about her love for Minnie Mouse and how much she adored the many stuffed animals she would take to bed.
And above all else, he looks back on what a good baby she was.
“She never really cried,” he told InsideEdition.com. “She was honestly very happy.”
Those memories are all he has left of Leah-Kaie Tucke, who was laid to rest at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Canton, Ohio, two months ago.
Photos of the smiley baby adorn her gravestone above the dates “February 23, 2015” and “March 12, 2016,” markers that note just how little time the child had before her life was tragically cut short.
Leah was just over 1-year-old when police say she was murdered by her mother’s boyfriend.
Timmy Mayle, 26, allegedly told investigators that the baby had "crawled up some stairs and fell back down them."
He was the only person at home with Leah, who emergency responders found unresponsive early March 11. She was pronounced dead the next day.
An autopsy revealed the little girl had died from traumatic brain swelling due to blunt force trauma, the Summit County Medical Examiner said.
"The doctor himself said it couldn’t have happened [by accident] unless she fell out of a second story window and fell directly on her head, or unless she got kicked in the head by a horse," David Tucke said. "It’s just kind of hard to talk about."
Mayle was charged in her death last Friday.
At only 20 years old, David Tucke shouldn’t have to travel to a cemetery to see his little girl, whose death was totally avoidable, his mother, Angela Tucke, told InsideEdition.com.
"She was a happy little girl," she said. "She couldn’t even walk yet when this happened. She was in our lives up until November. Then her mom wouldn’t let us visit, and always had an excuse. It was always 'no I have this do to, that to do.' I started feeling uneasy about it all."
Angela and David Tucke last saw Leah on November 8. It would be four months and three days until they would see her again, but this time it was in a hospital bed.
"I went from seeing this baby playing with her cousins… to seeing her with a tube in to breathe," she said.
The heartbroken grandmother, 41, said she experiences a range of emotions when she thinks of what happened to her granddaughter, but above all, she says she is furious that no one took action to stop what she believes was months of abuse that her granddaughter suffered at the hands of Mayle.
"I have pictures that his family members have sent me where she had bruises and marks on her," she said. "She had a black eye and a knot on the side of her head."
Angela Tucke said she made numerous calls to the Stark Co. Job & Family Services, which handles child abuse cases in Ohio, to report her fears that Leah was being abused.
"They said they didn’t see anything when they went out there and they dropped it," she said. "She ended up dying. You people could have stepped in, you were there. We weren’t. We weren’t allowed.
"If Leah had been with me and I saw those bruises, she would not have gone back to them."
A spokesman for Stark County Job & Family Services said he was not at liberty to discuss the case due to the ongoing investigation.
Leah was about 6 months old when her mother, Kayley Yoho, and David Tucke broke up.
Their relationship had been a tumultuous one that started going downhill about four months earlier, when police were called to their shared home for a domestic dispute, he said. They each told authorities the other was at fault.
"She would always hit me when we argued, and this one time she came at me with a knife," David Tucke said. "I pushed her over. She threw a glass cup at me that same day. She called her dad and on his way over he called the police."
Police told InsideEdition.com that Yoho had told officers who responded to their home April 22, 2015, that David Tucke had struck her in the face and grabbed her arm. He was arrested and convicted of a first-degree domestic violence charge.
"I had never been in trouble before and I have two months left on probation," David Tucke explained. "She hated me so much."
Though the pair tried to make it work, they broke up in August 2015 and Tucke said Yoho began dating Mayle a week later. He said the coupling stunned him, since he had considered Mayle his best friend.
"I was going to be the best man at his wedding, he told me that one time, before all this…" he said, his voice trailing off.
When they were friends, the two young men had spent every day together and David Tucke said he often saw Mayle lose his temper with his own children and with his pets.
"When this happened [to Leah] we knew it was Timmy from the get-go," he said.
David Tucke said he was told that his little girl had a broken arm that was never treated at the time of her death.
She also had injuries to her leg and broken fingers, he said, adding that he was told by investigators that Leah was brought to the emergency room four times from November to February.
"It’s not fair that this — this shouldn’t happen to a baby," Angela Tucke said, choking back tears. “She couldn’t even defend herself.”
The Medical Examiner declined to discuss any further findings than the cause and manner of Leah’s death, citing the ongoing investigation.
For the Tuckes, life has recently been a series of phone calls and actions that were too little too late.
"Leah’s mom didn’t even tell us that Leah was taken to the hospital. I was notified by somebody else saying Leah was being brought … Once we got to Akron Children’s Medical Center, it was already to the point that she was bad,” Angela Tucke said through tears. "When we got there they had decided to do a CAT scan … and at that time they told us she probably wouldn’t ever recover."
Angela Tucke stayed by her granddaughter’s side until the very end. Her husband brought their son home to avoid a confrontation at the hospital.
"When I saw Kayley, I said 'so when were you going to call me?'" David Tucke said, becoming angry as he recalled the interaction. "She said 'I was going to find a way to get ahold of you or your mom.' I said 'No you weren't. You were going to keep it from me like everything else.'"
Leah was pronounced dead on March 12. Nine days later, court officials called the family to notify them that David Tucke had received a court date to be heard on his petition for custody.
"I lost it," Angela Tucke said. "I said 'You're too late!’ They said 'What do you mean?' I screamed, 'She’s dead! You're too late!'"
Mayle, who had been in jail for an unrelated alleged crime, was charged with Leah’s murder on Friday. He faces murder and child endangerment charges and remains in custody on $2 million bond.
Leah’s mother is said to still be with him.
"Kayley is the only one who says this was an accident, that she fell down the stairs," Angela Tucke said. "The doctor said … 'this baby did not die from a fall down the steps. She died from abuse.’ She still defended him. She said 'I don’t have to deal with this bull**** and walked out of the room. A professional doctor just told us that this was what happened and she still stands by his side."
Mayle is said to have proposed to Yoho the day before Leah’s wake, Angela Tucke said, telling InsideEdition.com that Yoho accepted and has been to every court appearance he has had.
"I believe whole-heartedly that she knew what was going on," Angela Tucke said.
Her son agreed, saying: "If she lives with Timmy and Leah's coming up with bruises, how would she not know about it? He must be making up pretty damn good lies."
Yoho has not been charged with a crime. A spokesman for the Canton Police Department said he could not comment if any charges were pending and said the incident is still under investigation.
Neither Yoho nor the attorney representing Mayle has responded to InsideEdition’s requests for comment.
David Tucke has tried his best to heal, but it’s the shakes that he has had the hardest time controlling.
"In the morning, I start shaking really bad. It started after Leah passed away," he said.
He spends most of his time working at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, saying focusing on his job has helped.
"I know it’s a bad thing not to think about her, but certain days when I do think about her, I can’t…" he said, his voice trailing off again. "People tell me I need to sign up for counseling; I just tell myself 'no I don’t need it right now.' I don’t want to go."
Angela Tucke has focused her energy in raising awareness of what happened to Leah in an effort to get justice for her granddaughter.
"I think that’s probably what keeps me going. People are like, 'well you’re so strong.' I am not," she said.
She and relatives are working to establish a non-profit organization in Leah’s name. She is looking into ways to provide teddy bears to children taken out of situations of abuse.
"How wonderful would it be to give them a teddy bear to hold on to, something that she didn’t have? That’s kind of my ultimate goal, is to honor her. I don’t want everybody to remember her for what happened to her," she said. "She was a sweet little baby."
But above all, what the family hopes to see is whoever responsible for Leah’s death brought to justice.
"I want to see Timmy in prison for the rest of his life, honestly," David Tucke said.
Angela Tucke agreed, saying: "It’s never going to bring Leah back. But it will give her justice in my eyes and that’s what I’ve been fighting for, for her, all this time."