Warning Signs Missed in Tobi Joan Doyle's Abuse Death: Bruises, Skull Fracture

It's taken months, but Julie Huff, age thirty, has finally been formally charged in the child-abuse death of two-year-old Tobi Joan Doyle in Montrose.

Adding to the pain caused by this delay: reports of possible abuse warning signs that were either missed or misunderstood in the weeks before the February incident that took the child's life.

Specifically, bruising was shrugged off as having been accidentally inflicted, claims of excessive punishment were ignored, and a previous skull fracture wasn't discovered until the child's final trip to the hospital prior to her death.

Tobi's obituary in the Montrose Press features this adorable photo....

...and text that gives no indication that anything untoward happened.

The item reads in part:
Montrose resident Tobi Joan Doyle, 2 years of age, passed away on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colo....

Tobi enjoyed dancing, music, Minnie Mouse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this little angel absolutely loved life, her family and everyone she ever met.
According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Tobi died shortly after midnight on the 13th following a medical crisis the previous day at her home on the 600 block of Roma Court in Montrose, an area captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."

Huff, who was in a relationship with the child's mother and had been caring for the girl on February 12, maintained that Tobi wouldn't wake up after a nap.

After receiving this news, the girl's mother rushed to their home and attempted to revive Tobi using CPR.

When that didn't work, she dialed 911.

At Montrose Memorial Hospital, where Tobi was initially taken, doctors quickly ordered her to be transferred to Children's Hospital in Aurora. That's where she was pronounced dead.

The cause: blunt trauma to the head that would likely have caused her to lose consciousness.

Police didn't immediately arrest Huff, but doubts about her story led to fears that foul play had been involved — a theme of the Justice for TOBI Facebook page, which features images like these:

These suspicions were justified when the coroner's office ruled Tobi's death a homicide — a decision marked by the following poster:

Then, last month, Huff was arrested, and an arrest affidavit obtained by the Sentinel contained evidence that the fatal blow didn't come out of the blue.

The document revealed that Tobi had been taken to an emergency room in Montrose on January 21 after she supposedly had fallen down the stairs.

X-rays were taken, but somehow they didn't pick up a partially healed skull fracture that may have predated that incident.

In the end, the doctor who saw Tobi decided that her injuries were consistent with a tumble down stairs, even though the girl was already on the radar of the county's child-protection service.

Why? Turns out a woman who babysat Tobi had reported possible abuse, including "severe" bruising and timeouts so long that the child "could barely stand" by the time they were done.

The woman confronted Huff and Tobi's mother, the affidavit says, and "they just looked at me like I lost my mind."

The document also quotes Tobi's great aunt, who admits to thinking that the punishments meted out to Tobi went "overboard" — but her mother insisted that they were merely "discipline."

Authorities have now determined that they were much more than that. Huff is now facing a child-abuse-resulting-in-death count. She's currently in custody on a $150,000 bond and is next due in court on July 6.

Below, see Huff's booking photo, followed by a report from KJCT-TV broadcast after her arrest.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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