Mother indicted in death of baby who showed signs of abuse

A mother accused in June of failing to report her daughter’s extensive injuries — including cigarette burns on her hip and leg — now faces murder charges in the baby’s death.

Ashley Heard, 28, 836 Iberville St., pleaded not guilty Friday to counts of second-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile in the death of 11-month-old Aaliyah Heard. She faces life in prison if convicted as charged.

An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Heard in the killing this week.

The child’s father, Larry Leflore, 26, 1819 Carolina St., was booked with first-degree murder after the killing, but the grand jury was not asked this week to consider evidence against him, District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.

“Leflore’s involvement is still being investigated and will be presented to the grand jury at a date in the very near future,” Moore said.

Moore declined to say what evidence prompted the grand jury to charge Heard with murder.

Aaliyah’s parents had rushed her to the hospital June 21 because of “breathing difficulty,” according to court records. They flagged down an Emergency Medical Services vehicle en route, which took the baby to Baton Rouge General Medical Center.

Medical personnel spotted what appeared to be cigarette burns on the baby’s extremities, according to an affidavit. Aaliyah died the next morning, and an autopsy revealed she had a broken right clavicle, bleeding on the brain, retinal hemorrhaging and injuries to the anus.

Shane Evans, an investigator with the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office, has said the child appeared to have been struck in the head by a human hand. Several marks, bruises and abrasions discovered during the autopsy also pointed to a history of abuse.

At the time of his arrest, Leflore was accused of hitting the baby and throwing her after she refused to eat grits. He denied striking the girl but was implicated by her older brother. But he admitted hitting Heard because he claimed she was not properly caring for the child, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Heard had told authorities that two days before her baby’s death, Aaliyah was trying to stand when Leflore “became angry and slapped her legs so hard that it caused her to fall and hit the left side of her head on the floor,” the affidavit says.