BR mother arrested in infant's death

A Baton Rouge woman whose infant daughter was fatally struck in the head was accused Monday of failing to report several injuries authorities found on the baby’s body, including cigarette burns on her hip and leg.

Ashley Heard, 28, 196 Apartment Court Drive, Apt. 154, was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on one count of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile in the death of 11-month-old Aaliyah Heard.

According to court filings, the woman admitted in an interview with police that she had noticed the burns but “felt that the injuries would go away.”

Additional charges are expected as detectives continue to piece together the case, said Lt. Don Kelly, a police spokesman.

“The investigation is still very much ongoing,” he said.

Detectives on Monday had not yet established probable cause as to who dealt the blow that killed Aaliyah. But Kelly said the mother had an obligation as a parent — and under the law — to inform authorities of the injuries.

“Even if she did not inflict them, they were visible,” Kelly said.

The arrest followed an autopsy earlier in the day that revealed the baby died of blunt force trauma to the head. The child also suffered a broken right clavicle, bleeding on the brain, retinal hemorrhaging and injuries to the anus, an affidavit of probable cause says.

Shane Evans, an investigator with the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office, 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, he said.

“We saw some very recent injuries,” Evans said, “as in just prior to death.”

The Coroner’s Office ruled the child’s death a homicide.

Aaliyah had been rushed to Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City at 1:15 p.m. Friday. Before the baby was transferred to the hospital’s Bluebonnet Boulevard campus, detectives noticed multiple bruises on her face, suspected cigarette burns to her extremities and a large burn to the upper right thigh, the affidavit says.

The baby died about 11:10 a.m. Saturday after “medical attempts failed,” the affidavit says. Family members were interviewed by detectives as well as investigators from the state Department of Children and Family Services, Kelly said.

Trey Williams, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Family Services, declined comment on the case. After reviewing police records, Kelly said there had been no previous calls to the baby’s address.

The investigation comes just two weeks after a local mother and her partner were booked with first-degree murder in the death of 23-month-old Justyce Cheatham. In that case, an autopsy revealed the boy received several suspicious injuries and that he died from blunt force head injuries.

In another child beating death in April, 18-month-old Azaria Johnson died of blunt force trauma to the head after she was struck by her mother’s boyfriend, authorities have said.