NATCHEZ, Miss. (WLBT) - Two people have been arrested after a four-year-old was killed and her three-year-old sister hospitalized in Natchez.
Police Chief Walter Armstrong says the children were severely abused.
25-year-old Lakeisha Marie Jones, the children’s mother, and 24-year-old James Christopher Anderson have both been arrested and charged. They are both being held without bond at the Adams County Sheriff’s Department.
4-year-old Armani Hill was pronounced dead in a Merit Natchez emergency room at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday. Natchez Coroner James Lee said an autopsy shows that the child died from blunt force trauma.
“I wish I had the correct words to describe how devastating this is," said Coroner Lee. “God have Mercy."
Natchez police were called late Wednesday night to 601 Old Washington Road. When the officers that were dispatched arrived they were stopped by a vehicle that had what appeared to be a very sick child inside. The officer immediately realized that both of the girls were in critical condition and had been severely abused.
Both children were taken to the hospital. Police said they had at least 12 injuries, but would not go into detail about what those injuries were.
Armani Hill died at the hospital and her 3-year-old sister was taken to a level 1 trauma hospital and is listed in critical condition.
Police say that Anderson was the only person home with the girls at the time of the abuse because their mother left the children in his care Tuesday night while she worked an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.
Jones said she stopped home briefly after getting off work Wednesday morning, but then she left again shortly after. When she left the second time, she said the girls were doing fine. She also stated that one of them got up and walked around, showing no signs of injuries.
After the abuse allegedly occurred, police say Anderson made the children walk 1/4 of a mile to the Holiday Apartment Complex on Old Washington Road where his mother lived. Police said one of the girls kept falling down during the walk from being injured so badly.
According to police, the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services had previously opened two cases on the children due to injuries sustained in the past. The department issued a statement Friday regarding the incident.
Child Protection Services went into detail about their involvement, saying they received two prior reports of abuse involving the same children since December 2018. The agency says they investigated the reporters’ concerns and the evidence did not support substantiation of the allegations. Even so, MDCPS opened an “in-home” case and made repeated visits with the children and family from January until May of this year, but no safety concerns ever came up and no child abuse or harm was noted. The case was closed on June 4 after the agency met with Jones, the children and the children’s grandmother. The children were never placed in MDCPS custody.
“What I can tell you is that it was a very sad day for law enforcement because we witnessed first hand severe beating that these young children had endured at the hands of a caregiver," Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong said during a press conference Friday.
Jones is charged with two counts of child deprivation of necessities with substantial harm. Police said that during the investigation, officers learned that she had been made aware of the abuse by her boyfriend but didn’t take action to protect the children. She was arraigned June 7 and given a $250,000 bond.
Anderson is charged with two counts of felonious abuse of a child, which carries no less than five years and up to life in prison. He was arraigned June 7 and denied bond on both counts.
Little Armani’s body is being transported to the state crime lab for mandatory autopsy.
This is a developing story and we will update as more information becomes available.