MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Last month, 28-year-old Branden Collins was charged with killing his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter. Tuesday was Collins’ preliminary hearing, just days after the toddler’s funeral.
This weekend, the world said goodbye to Jossilyn Starn. Her funeral was Saturday. She was killed just days after her third birthday.
“I used to tell her all the time that I loved her up to the moon and back,” Jossilyn’s mother, Jennifer Rabbitt remembers. “And she’d say ‘I love you. I love you to the moon. Back, mom’ She actually told me that right before they took her. I mean I talked to her. Right before she collapsed.”
Rabbitt left little Jossilyn with Collins while Rabbitt was at work August 20. Police say Collins somehow hurt the little girl’s head. “He said that she was throwing up and that I needed to come home and I told her that I was on my way home and that I’d see her soon and she said ‘OK mommy.’ I said ‘I love you princess’ and she said “I love you too mommy.’ And by the time, I mean I literally walked out of work and by the time I got home she was already gone,” Rabbitt recalls. “I never got to talk to her again.”
Jossilyn, or Jossie to her family, loved Hello Kitty and the color pink. She also loved cars and motorcycles — anything with an engine.
“She was three but she acted like she was 15 or 16,” Jossilyn’s father, Cody Starn says, “She liked the independence that she thought that she had acquired.”
Her mother adds, “I love you’s and hugs. And high fives that made your hands sting. She was a tough little girl.”
Jossie also loved her older brother. They were just a year apart, but they acted like twins.
“He understands the simple fact that she is in heaven,” Cody Starns says, “But I think he doesn’t understand that heaven is a one way train. He thinks tht she can come back from there.”
For Jossie’s family, this seems like a horrible nightmare that they can’t wake up from. But they take comfort knowing that, even in death, Jossie’s love continues. “We were able to donate most of her vital organs knowing that we would never be able to take our baby home but that maybe somebody else would be able to take their home and not feel like we do,” Jossie’s mother says. “Nobody, nobody should ever have to feel the way that we do.”