When 37-year-old Atlanta mom Jessica Arrendale died last weekend, after being beaten with a bat and shot in the head by her abusive boyfriend, she could have just become another horrific domestic violence statistic. Another heartbreaking number to add to the growing list of victims who couldn't escape the powers of their abusers in time.
But it was what Arrendale did in her very last seconds on earth that has touched thousands, and shown the world her bravery. As difficult as it may be to read the details of what she endured, they shine a harsh light on the terrible reality of domestic violence, as well as the incredible strength of a mother's love.
Before her death last week, Arrendale had already suffered through several episodes of violence at the hands of her former Marine boyfriend, Antoine Davis. As her mother later told reporters, it was the daughter the couple shared—6-month-old Cobie—that kept something inside Arrendale from wanting to leave Davis for good.
But on September 13, one of Davis' violent outbursts would turn fatal, after the couple returned from a night out, during which he had become both drunk and belligerent.
According to WSB Radio, the events that followed were nothing short of terrifying:
Davis chased Arrendale up the stairs of her three-story townhome in the Oakdale Bluffs subdivision sometime around midnight, she said.
Arrendale tried to defend herself with a baseball bat, but she was overpowered by the former serviceman, who struck her several times with the bat, [Arrendale's mother, Teresa] Ionniello said.
At one point during the struggle, Arrendale escaped and locked herself in the bathroom, clutching baby Cobie in her arms. But Davis grabbed a rifle and soon forced his way in, shooting her in the head.
Though the gunshot would prove fatal, something miraculous happened before she passed. According to Arrendale's mother, Arrendale was somehow able to twist her body around after being shot, falling "literally in the opposite direction" that she should have. Instead of falling face-down onto the floor in front of her, she fell over the toilet, dropping Cobie in and covering the baby with her own body. Davis apparently did not see or hear his daughter after shooting Arrendale, and left the bathroom. Soon after, from inside Cobie's room, he shot himself.
It would take police 13 hours to discover Cobie, as well as the rest of the horrific scene inside Arrendale's townhouse; but she was alive. According to People.com, the little baby was taken to a hospital in Atlanta, where she's being treated for a traumatic head injury. Inniello shared that it may from being struck by the bat herself.
In the wake of Jessica's death on Saturday, the young Georgia mom's story has gone viral, touching thousands and even causing a tribute page to be set up in her honor. Arrendale also leaves behind a 15-year-old daughter, who had been in the care of Inniello at the time of her mother's death.
"She had pure will," Inniello told WSB Radio. "[My daughter] was the hero, because her last breath was saving the child."