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SOUTH SACRAMENTO — “That was my Dante. Just starting the third grade,” said Monique Brown, Dante’s grandmother.

On his second day of third grade at Oakridge Elementary in South Sacramento, 8-year-old Dante Daniels didn’t make it to school. He would never make it there again.

“This guy beat my grandson with a hammer. Down to his spine. They couldn’t save his brain,” Brown said.

Early in the morning on Sept. 1, investigators say his mother’s ex-boyfriend, 23-year-old Deandre Chaney Jr., attacked Dante with a hammer. A criminal complaint alleged he also used lighter fluid. Six days later, Dante died.

Remembering him brings a smile to his grandma’s face.

“Haha. He was a little,” she said. “He was a lot sensitive. He didn’t play with kids who were rough. He played baseball.”

And in his final moments awake, Brown says the 8-year-old was a hero — showing incredible courage in the face of his accused killer.

“Trying to save his sister from this child molester and that’s why he was beat the worst,” Brown said.

The criminal complaint states that Chaney murdered Dante while he was engaged in the crime of committing a lewd act on his sister.

At some point, investigators say Chaney turned the hammer and knife on her, as well as her mother.

Brown wants the community to see how Chaney left them for dead — 28-year-old Elizabeth Salone and 7-year-old Danae.

“She’s OK. She will probably never see out of her left eye,” Brown said about Salone.

“My granddaughter will need a lot of help,” she said.

What’s helped them persevere through the suffering — cards, flowers and candles from the community, their faith in God and in the fact that evil was not strong enough to steal Dante’s heart.

“Dante gave his heart to a 4-year-old in southern California,” Brown said. “So a 4-year-old lives on because of…”

Because of Dante.