BY STEFANO ESPOSITO
On one side of the street, an elderly woman cooed to a toddler in a stroller Monday morning.
On the other, a death investigator’s sticker sealed the door to an apartment where Ashley Mendoza once blew kisses to her daddy from her window.
Inside that second-floor Northwest Side apartment, investigators searched for clues after 3-year-old Ashley was found dead there Sunday night. Police were questioning a person of interest in the case Monday.
An autopsy Monday found that Ashley died of multiple injuries from child abuse, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Police entered the apartment in the 3300 block of North Natchez Avenue about 8:30 p.m. Sunday, where they found the little girl.
She was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:48 p.m. Sunday, according to the medical examiner’s office.
The family of the toddler had lived in the apartment about three years, said their upstairs neighbor, a stay-at-home mother of three.
That neighbor, Anita Padilla, said police told her the dead child’s mother had reported a break-in Sunday.
Padilla said her neighbors could be worryingly loud at times. Sometimes, their arguments were noisy enough to shake Padilla’s walls, the neighbor said.
“There was a lot of yelling, but it was mostly between the husband and wife,” Padilla said.
Still, things never reached the point to where police had to be called, Padilla said.
The arguments were in Spanish, a language Padilla says she doesn’t speak.
On Sunday, the neighbors were unusually quiet, Padilla said.
“I didn’t even know they were at home,” Padilla said.
Padilla said the father of the toddler appeared to be a devoted dad.
“When he would leave every day [for work], she would stand by the window, and he would stand by the car blowing kisses and giving air hugs,” Padilla said.
— Contributing: LeeAnn Shelton