Prosecutors have charged a second parent in connection with the death of their 2-year-old daughter, who was found fatally beaten on the family's St. Paul porch last month.
John Vang, 42, was charged via summons in Ramsey County District Court on Thursday with felony child endangerment related to previous acts of abuse toward Melody Vang.
The child's mother, 29-year-old Ciashia Lee, told police she "lost her temper" and repeatedly struck Melody, causing fatal traumatic head injuries, after the toddler's cries woke a sleeping infant on Jan. 10, charges say. She remains jailed on second-degree murder charges.
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. Vang told police he'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.
Vang denied seeing Lee strike the girl that night, charges say, but admitted that he'd seen her do so in the past. He accused the child of being "a drama queen," and "resistant to discipline," according to the complaint.
But Melody's older siblings told a social worker that both parents had a history of physical abuse and kept Melody locked in a closet for hours on end as punishment for misbehaving, charges say. She sometimes stuffed food in her diaper so she would have something to eat at night.
One child described seeing Vang strike Melody in the face with his fist about a week before her death. His parents beat Melody, he said — sometimes with a wire hanger.
Vang does not appear to have a violent criminal history in Minnesota. Bail has not yet been set.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648