Montgomery, Al. (WSFA) -- Debra Means still can't believe her nephew, 3 year-old Chad Johnson, is gone.
Means took the boy into her Hayneville home when he was an infant. Now, his tragic death leaves her searching for answers.
"[His father] had us thinking that Chad jumped off the bed and hit his head into the dresser. The doctors said that didn't happen," Means explained.
Friday, Montgomery police arrested Alvin Johnson, 36, who they say is the boy's legal father.
Authorities tell WSFA 12 News Johnson struck his own child at his North Montgomery home.
"[The injuries were] consistent with domestic abuse, and it appears that this wasn't the first time that the child had been abused," said Captain Huey Thornton of the Montgomery Police Department.
Thursday, the boy died at Children's Hospital in Birmingham. A preliminary autopsy report says the child died from blunt force trauma to the head.
It's a tragic end to a story the boys aunt says started months ago, when Alvin Johnson and his wife--Chad's mother--wanted to take the boy back.
"I haven't seen Chad since March 12th, the day I took [some] pictures [of him] because I knew I wasn't going to see him anymore," Means said.
A custody battle ensued. Means filed court documents asking for full custody.
In the meantime, visits with her nephew were few and far between. Her conversations with Alvin Johnson, Means says, became heated.
Now, just one day after the death of the boy she raised as a son, Means says she's glad Johnson is behind bars, charged with Capital Murder.
But, she says, it was too little, too late.
"It took death to get this. It took my baby's death to get this," Means explained.
NOTE: Means tells WSFA 12 News she tried repeatedly to warn the Department of Human Resources of her situation. A representative for DHR says the organization is cooperating with the Montgomery Police Department. They've also launched what a spokesman calls "a thorough internal investigation."
This is Montgomery's 8th homicide of 2008. Alvin Johnson remains in the Montgomery County Detention Facility--without bond.
Stay with WFSA 12 News for more developments in this story.
Reporter: Cody Holyoke