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Updated: May 23, 2014

Rome girl, 5, died of blunt force trauma; pregnant mother arrested



By Michelle E. Shaw, Craig Schneider

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Well before Amanda Hendrickson was charged in the death of her 5-year-old daughter, family members said they saw mysterious injuries that the mother tried to explain away.

When the grandmother of little Heaven Woods spotted a knot on the girl’s head about a year ago, the mother explained her daughter was clumsy and fell on a coffee table.

When Heaven had bruises in the shape of a hand on her throat, the mother said the girl was autistic and tried to choke herself.

Family members also recall at least one instance in which the mother lost her temper, grabbed the hair on Heaven’s head and lifted her clear off the floor.

“I wish I would have stepped up and done something,” said Ashley Coursey, 21, Hendrickson’s half-sister and Heaven’s aunt.

On Thursday, Heaven’s grandmother, Lisa Coursey, and Ashley Coursey, both of Adairsville, called for the death penalty.

“I want justice for my granddaughter,” Lisa Coursey said. “If she (Hendrickson) did this, she should rot in H-E-L-L.”

Heaven died Tuesday after Monroe County 911 received two calls at 8:51 a.m. for an unresponsive child. Police went to the Forsyth home of Roderick Buckner, where Heaven and her mother had been living since early this month, according to the GBI.

An autopsy of Heaven Woods’ body at the GBI Crime Lab in Atlanta revealed the girl died of blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Her death is being investigated as a homicide, the GBI said.

Hendrickson, 33, has been arrested on charges of felony child cruelty in the first degree and giving false statements. Additional charges are expected.

Buckner, 34, also faces felony first-degree child cruelty charges and could face additional charges as the investigation into Heaven’s death continues, the GBI said.

The autopsy on the child revealed both new injuries and older ones that had healed, said GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang.

Hendrickson has a “history” with the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services in Rome, the GBI said.

DFCS declined to discuss the family Thursday.

Hendrickson had told Forsyth police that Heaven had been staying with a friend in Rome, and that the girl was sick when she returned to Forsyth Monday night, according to the Forsyth police incident report.

First responders performed CPR on the girl and told police Heaven’s body had “visible evidence of possible abuse,” according to the report.

GBI’s Lang said she could not comment on what might have happened to Heaven prior to the 911 call.

The young girl was transported to Monroe County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to the GBI release.

Lisa Coursey said when she saw Hendrickson pull the girl off the floor by her hair about a year ago, she issued a stern warning.

“I said, ‘If I catch you doing that again, I will call DFCS,’ ” she said.

When Ashley Coursey saw it happen, “I walked out of the room. I can’t stand being mean to a child.”

Now, she said, she wishes she had called the police.

“She’s not a good mother,” said Ashley Coursey. “She jumps from man to man. She’s not good to Heaven. She slaps her. She jerks her arm.”

Heaven, she said, was “a lovable child. All she wanted you to do was hold her and love her.”

The child, she said, had attention deficit problems, but she loved watching cartoons, spending time in the playground or having someone read to her.

Family members say Hendrickson has other children and is pregnant with another.

Hendrickson’s Facebook pages show pictures of Heaven as a baby and ultrasound photos of what appears to be her current pregnancy.

One page indicates she attended Adairsville High School and enjoys the movies “Friday the 13th” and “The Outsiders.”

On Buckner’s Facebook page, he says he attended Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, and he also included a photo of an ultrasound. The page includes several poems and sayings such as, “Your biggest hater could be your closest friend. People pretend well.”

Hendrickson and Buckner are being held at the Monroe County jail without bond. They appeared before Monroe County Chief Magistrate Judge Buck Wilder on Thursday, and the judge denied bond for both.

Family members gathered Thursday at the Adairsville home of Heaven’s grandmother.

“We’re all crying, hurt and sad,” Ashley Coursey said. “I’m disgusted.”

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