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Iris Hayes’ father speaks for the first time since the two-year-old died and murder charges filed against mother’s boyfriend

Iris Hayes
Iris Hayes(WITN)
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 9:02 PM EDT
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MARTIN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The death of two-year-old Iris Pearl Hayes leaves a family heartbroken. They say they feel empty. Iris' father, Corey Hayes, talks about the loss of his daughter publicly and shares family moments and photos.

According to Martin County Sheriff’s officials, Iris was life-flighted to Vidant Medical Center last week after suffering severe injuries. Deputies say the toddler never recovered from her injuries and died Friday, September 18th.

Her family talked Tuesday about her young life and her favorite things. Her father said Iris Pearl’s favorite foods were bananas and french fries, and she loved to ride her tricycle and play at the pool at her paw-paw’s house.

In addition to many questions about the child’s death, the family says it’s the little things they will remember and miss the most about the young life cut short.

Her aunt Bryana Hahn, of her father’s side, remembers her. Hahn said, “She was one of the angels walking this earth. She lit up the room when she walked in.”

Her uncle Christopher Vasquez, on her mother’s side, says Iris was like a daughter to him. Vasquez said, “I spent countless hours with that child—you know, taking care of her, making sure she had everything she needed.”

And her grandfather, who she called “paw-paw” who spoiled her rotten. Gregory Hayes said, “I did spoil her. She always ran to me if Corey would get onto her about something. She’d run to paw-paw. Or she would run to gram, y wife. I loved that girl more than anything.”

Iris' mother, 21-year-old Essence Marie Velez, faces felony child abuse by neglect charges, and her mother’s boyfriend, 24-year-old Ibrahim Romero, is facing murder charges in her death.

Her father said, “As a father, I gotta do everything I can to protect her and I wasn’t able to this time.” Arrest warrants say both Velez and Romero failed to seek immediate medical attention after Iris' injuries.

Her father said, “As a father, I gotta do everything I can to protect her and I wasn’t able to this time.”

Now, the family is holding on tight to their memories. “She was bright, vibrant. She had the best personality you could ever imagine. She loved everyone, and everyone loved her. It didn’t matter hat the situation was. She was comforting. If you were upset, she would come pat you on the back. 'Awww, wipe your tears,” Her father said.

Family members say they want justice for Iris, and they are putting their confidence in the justice system to hold whoever is proved responsible accountable for the toddler’s death.

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