Father of Zoey Sandercox speaks to NEWS10

Three-year-old Zoey Sandercox of Troy died over the weekend from a traumatic blow to the stomach. The little girl died while in the care of her mother's boyfriend, 27-year-old John Tinkler.

Tinkler was arraigned Monday on second degree murder and child endangerment charges.

Now, Zoey Sandercox's four siblings are in foster care and her mother expecting another baby – her second with Tinkler.

On Tuesday, NEWS10 spoke to Zoey's father, who travelled hundreds of miles to get some answers about his daughter's death.

Peter Deluke poured over the words written by John Tinkler, the man police say killed Zoey Sandercox. Tinkler was babysitting the girl, but he insists her death was an accident. In a handwritten, five page statement, he claims he put Zoey in the bathtub after she had vomited in bed and turned on the shower. He was watching TV when he says he heard her fall.

“It looked like she was crying,” Sandercox wrote in the statement, “I asked her if she hit her head. She said yes, and put her hands up to the back of her head.”

Later on he wrote, “I noticed she was wobbling, like a drunken stance. I noticed her lips were changing color. They went pale. I went to get my stethoscope to listen to her heart.”

When he came back into the room he said, “Zoey was laying on the bathroom floor. She was laying face up with her head towards the end of the tub where the faucet is. I noticed she wasn't moving and I said her name a bunch of times and was tapping her on the face.”

Tinker then said he called 9-1-1 and the dispatcher helped him to perform CPR. He then took her downstairs and passed her off to a firefighter he continued to try and resuscitate the toddler.

Deluke told NEWS10, “So far I've been told that she was suffocated. That she was kicked in the stomach and that's all I know right now.”

While Tinker claims Zoey hit her head on the bathtub, a death certificate declares that blunt force trauma that killed the child. Police say those blunt force injuries were to Zoey's abdomen.

Deluke found out about Zoey's death while watching the news at his home near Rochester. It wasn't until he logged on to the internet that he learned that it was in fact his own daughter.

He then bought the next bus ticket to Troy, arriving just in time a Monday night vigil in Zoey's honor. During the vigil, the sidewalk outside the apartment where Zoey died was packed with family and friends.

On Monday, Tinkler was arraigned on charges of second degree murder and child endangerment. Sandercox was working at the time of the fatal accident on Saturday. Tinkler called her from work.

“He just told me that I had to go to the hospital. That she was not breathing,” Sandercox recalled.

When asked if she believed Tinkler's account, Sandercox said, “I want to, but I have to look at what really happened to (Zoey), too, you know?”

Outside of their Troy apartment, Sandercox told NEWS10 that she and Tinkler never had any problems in the two years they have been together. In addition to the child they already have together, they are expecting another in December.

Now Sandercox's other four children are in foster care. She is not facing any charges.

This, however, is not the first time that children have taken out of Sanderbox's care. Sources close to this case tell NEWS10 that about a year ago, social services got involved after a young relative left Sandercox's residence with a broken arm.

Her father and other family members say the removal was resolved and, since that time, Sandercox has worked hard to keep her family together as a full-time mother and employee at a local supermarket.

Now, all they say she can do is attempt to recover from the loss of her daughter and perhaps the loss of a father to her unborn child.

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