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Tennessee toddler killed after Child Protective Services returned her to parents

Posted at 8:51 AM, Dec 18, 2020

JOHNSON CITY, Tennessee — The parents of a 19-month-old Tennessee girl have been charged with murder and aggravated child abuse after a medical examiner determined the toddler had been killed, authorities said.

Samiah Crater died in February, four months after being returned to the custody of her parents, Johnson City Police investigator Joe Jaynes wrote in arrest affidavits, according to the Johnson City Press.

The girl weighed only 12 pounds (5 kilograms) when she died, court documents said.

Sapora D. Walton, 20, and Jeremiah T. Crater, 22, were arrested Wednesday and were being held in the Washington County Detention Center. It wasn’t immediately clear whether they have attorneys who could comment on their behalf.

Autopsy findings received this month by police and prosecutors determined the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and neck and the manner of death was homicide, the newspaper reported.

The Department of Children’s Services had custody of the girl between August 2018 and October 2019, police affidavits said. When she returned to her parents, “records show (she) was in good health,” Jaynes wrote.

Authorities responded to the couple’s residence on Feb. 21 after a report that the girl was unresponsive, and she was pronounced dead at the scene, Johnson City Police Capt. Kevin Peters said in a statement.

He said police noted her condition at the time.

“She appeared emaciated. Her ribs and spine were clearly visible and her cheeks were sunken in,” police affidavits said. “Additionally, there were marks indicative of trauma at different points on and around her head.”

Police said the parents couldn’t explain the child’s injuries and told officers they weren’t aware of any health problems.