Parents of Murdered Toddler Speak Out

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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.


Cody Starn and Jennifer Rabbitt, Jossilyn Starn's parents. (WHO-HD)

"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."


    • Justice

      Hey, it is a fair question. How long did this woman know this man before she left her 3 year old with him? Unfortunately, we see stories like this in the news all of the time.

      • Sara McAnulty

        Actually since you don’t know this family let me tell you it wasn’t a two week relationship. Jennifer was a WONDERFUL mom and took great care of her kids and just didn’t rely on just anyone to care for her kids.

  • Sara McAnulty

    To the comment above stating “you had no clue” REALLY!!??? Would you ever expect that someone you trusted would hurt a child? Probably not. How dare you say that to grieving parents. I’m sorry but you disgust me!

    • Justice

      The fact is this, a beautiful 3 year old baby girl is gone because she was entrusted to a boyfriend. How many times have we read this same old story in the news? I have no doubt that the mother loved her baby. However, this baby is now gone because of a boyfriend. Can you deny that reasoning?

      • Sara McAnulty

        Your right…she’s an angel now…with parents that no matter what will grieve and live with the “what if’s” so since you don’t k ow them please keep your disrespectful comments to yourself. I pray u never go through this or any other similar situation and then have to read the ignorant comments people leave. Just imagine how your comments only pour more salt in the deep wound they have already. A little CONSIDERATION can speak volumes to a grieving family.

    • Justice

      Sorry, but obviously you misunderstood my previous comments. These boyfriends are the bad guys. And the moms need to really look out for them.

  • Brittany Krough

    For those of you who don’t really need to know but think you need to ask arrogant questions to further more hurt the loves of my life.. let me tell you Jen dated Branden for 2 years!! They were friends long before that.. I even had him in my labor room with another friend of mine while welcoming my now 9 year old into the world……. But hey did you need to know that type of information absolutely NOT!! Did any of us think in a million years he’d ever hurt a child ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Jen was and still is a loving doting mother who rarely trusts anybody with her children because like every mother they’re her life, heart, and soul!! It’s not ooh a lot of boyfriends do this and blah blah blah!! It’s about Jossi……. a little precious life is gone and nobody will ever know why!! You can’t even sit there and say ooh it’s always the boyfriends because guess what fathers, husband, uncles, and even a grandparent has killed a child…. and nope I’m not sticking up for Branden no matter what they say he did I don’t give a rats ass!! Jossi was left in his care where she was meant to be safe and taken care of obviously that didn’t happen because we no longer have our precious princess… The only thing that I ask is let the family grieve and let the courts do their job!! The pointing fingers and asking highly insensitive questions or just making an arrogant comment or even just spreading more negative comments and such only hurts Jen and Cody’s families more while they try to grieve the loss of their baby girl……. Please remember this and watch what you say… For once in your unforsaken lifes put yourself in their shoes and think of the nightmare not only are they living through it, but they have to relive it through all types of media (such as oh look the news, newspapers, facebook, and the list goes on), word on the streets, and every possible way you can think of…Just show compassion and respect please and thank you!!

  • Jessie.

    We see this way too many times, a mother trusts her partner. Who are we to say the mother is to blame? We do not know how long they have been together? Two weeks, Two months, Two years? It doesn’t matter, this mother trusted the “man” she was with to watch her child, a “man”” she obviously thought she knew…The “ONLY” way to blame this grieving mother is “IF” there were signs of physical abuse “prior” to this happening. I have not read anything about that…this so called “man” could have a part to him that he kept hidden from her. And due to trusting, this mother, has lost a precious gift, a gift that can never be returned, and now all she has to live with are the very short three years she has gotten with her beautiful child. I pray, that God can give them the peace that they need. And for this sick man, I hope which ever prison they send him to, that he does NOT get one day of piece, I hope his is stalked, tormented, tortured, and has to endure some kind of pain for the rest of his pathetic days on this earth. He gets to live, while a beautiful child lays sleeping in a cold ground, and for what? Cause he was a little p*ssy a*s bit*h.

  • Kay

    ok enough with the blaming if it happend on purpose everything will come out sometime but I can’t see a human hurting that beautiful lil girl Karma will come out if needs to be but it’s a time for the memories of Jossie to come out not pointing fingers and placing comments it’s not the publics business

  • Sue

    Prayers to this poor little angel’s family. As the mother of two, I can’t imagine the pain of having your baby stolen from you like this. This mother doesn’t need to be beaten up here. I’m sure she is beating herself up already.
    If the boyfriend truly killed this child intentionally, and since they are saying ‘murder’ it sounds like he did, I hope they put him in general population in prison and look the other way. Even scum thinks child abusers are scum.

  • BrutallyHonest

    Does anyone besides him know what really happened or is it all speculation? Innocent until proven guilty right? I dont know either party and i definately feel sorry for these parents and what they are going through. But as a nuetral person that just reads the news storys, is there evidence that this infact was done on purpose or was it an accident?

  • Jessica

    I can’t imagine the heartache the parents are going through right now. No one should ever lose a child. I hope and pray every day I will never have to deal with something like this. My thoughts and prayers go out to the parents, family and friends of that new little beauty angel in heaven. Such sadness has happened so much lately and 99% of the time are so blind sided when it happens. We can’t just blame the boyfriends, because the last few news reports I have read/heard had a parent involded. No matter how much trust or how long you have known someone, you never know. We never know what is going to be around the corner in life. Good, bad, ugly. All we can do is think about choices we make, trust that we have made the right decidions in life and for our children. God has his own set of plans for every single one of us. Unfotunely, this little girl was taken in a terrible way, but she can now watch over mother, father and brother all the time and be the guardian angel to protect over them! RIP little girl.

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