A St. Paul woman told police she'd "lost her temper" and repeatedly struck her 2-year-old daughter, causing fatal traumatic head injuries, after the toddler's cries woke a sleeping infant, charges say.
Ciashia Lee, 29, was charged in Ramsey County District Court on Monday with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Melody Vang. Lee remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.
Her 42-year-old partner was also arrested, but the Ramsey County Attorney's Office is still weighing criminal charges. The Star Tribune generally does not identify suspects before they are charged.
Five other children in the home, ranging in age from 8 months to 11 years, were turned over to Ramsey County Child Protection. Their parents had recently regained custody after the children were in foster care.
According to the criminal complaint:
Officers responded at 2:30 a.m. Sunday to a duplex in the 1000 block of E. 3rd Street on a report of an unknown incident. Upon arrival, they found the girl — naked except for a diaper — unconscious and unresponsive, with large bruises on her face. Her parents told police they'd rolled her in a blanket and rug on the family's back porch so the other children wouldn't see the body. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
"I just kept hitting her," Lee reportedly told an investigator when asked what happened. Lee recalled assaulting the child because she wouldn't stop crying. Eventually, Lee put her in the "timeout" closet, before returning to bed.
During an interview with police, Lee's partner told detectives that Melody started wailing around 3 p.m. that afternoon and refused to calm down, waking their infant multiple times. Lee got mad and took the girl in the other room. He assumed she was put in the hallway closet for a timeout before the couple went to sleep.
He didn't know how much time had passed when the baby's cries woke him early that morning. Lee instructed him to go check on Melody, who he found lying on floor, cold and not breathing.
When he brought her to the bedroom, Lee began to cry. They called Lee's brother, who ordered them to call police. Lee's partner called the Police Department's nonemergency line and asked for crisis officers before hanging up, authorities said. He denied seeing Lee strike the girl that night, charges say, but admitted that he'd seen her do so in the past.
The couple's landlord later told police they were so disturbed by the child's injuries when they came to do some home repairs Saturday afternoon that they took photos of the bruises and contacted child protection. Melody died around 12 hours later.
Her death marks the city's first homicide of the year and the second of a young child in the city in less than three weeks. On Dec. 23, 2-year-old Jayse Damir Wilson fatally shot himself in the forehead in his Rice Street apartment. Earl Williams, 39, had left the gun unattended, according to manslaughter charges.
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648