After a Utah man stumbled upon a 4-year-old girl alone in the near-freezing cold on Dec. 27, police went to the child's home and found her dead mother "sleeping" on the floor.
Passerby Marcus King was on his way to play some pickup basketball at the park in Ogden when he heard the child from a nearby playground, reports KSTU.
"I had heard a little girl’s voice inside the park, didn't really think nothing of it," recalls King. "Once I came around this way she had got my attention."
What King saw shocked him: The 4-year-old girl was alone in the dark, barefoot and playing in the snow.
"She didn’t have any jacket, no shoes, no parental supervision, and I just took action then and took her inside," he said.
With help from staff at a nearby community center, King called the police and stayed for three hours while authorities tried to find the girl's family.
"This is not a good part of Ogden -- there’s a lot of weirdos around here, and I’m really, really fortunate and happy that I got to her, and nobody else did," King said.
But rather than witness a happy reunion, authorities found themselves walking into a tragedy at the girl's home.
"When they walked over there, the door was wide open," King said. "And the way the little girl was explaining it was: Her mom wasn't paying attention, and her mom was on the floor sleeping."
Ogden Police Lt. Tim Scott said it is likely the girl's mother, DeLynn Cunningham, died from natural causes.
Scott says she probably died 24 hours before King found the 4-year-old.
"Officers went inside and found a 41-year-old mother dead," he said. "She was living alone with her mother. There is no sign of foul play. There are some pre-existing medical conditions that may have played a role."
Cunningham died only days after celebrating her daughter's birthday, a YouCaring crowdfunding page set up by relatives reveals.
The Division of Child and Family Services took the child into its care while authorities determine whether she can stay with relatives.
The girl's family is now trying to raise $10,000 online to help pay for the mother's funeral.
"DeLynn Cunningham passed away shortly after celebrating her beautiful daughter's fourth birthday and fourth Christmas," reads the YouCaring page.
"DeLynn passed at age 41, leaving behind her precious daughter," it adds. "We ask for your help to pay for funeral expenses. Any additional funds you provide will be dedicated to the care and support of DeLynn's daughter."