CEDAR CITY – A Cedar City woman facing felony murder in the death of her 14-month-old daughter will stand trial later this year.
Fifth District Judge Keith Barnes granted the request for trial Tuesday in the case of Cherokee Dea, who is charged with first-degree murder. She is also facing charges for two counts of child abuse, both second-degree felonies, and child endangerment, a third-degree felony.
The 24-year-old pleaded not guilty during a hearing April 24.
Dea’s boyfriend Brendan Russell Dalton, 30, has also been charged for the same crime. Dalton, who has also pleaded not guilty, requested a trial date in a separate hearing last month. He will return to court Aug. 7 for a pre-trial hearing.
The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by Cedar City police detectives into the events leading up to the death of Dea’s child on April 17, 2017.
According to charging documents filed in 5th District Court, Dea’s baby was born with no apparent health problems or conditions.
On the night in question, April 13, 2017, Dea and Dalton were watching a moving while the baby was lying next to them on the couch.
Somewhere between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m., the couple gave the baby a bath after she vomited. Dalton told police she was smiling and “tracking him with her eyes” while he played peek-a-boo in the bathtub. He noted she had a “lazy eye,” the report stated. After bathing the baby, the three returned to watch the movie.
At around midnight, Dea stepped outside for a cigarette. It was then, Dalton said he picked the baby up to “soothe her” as she had begun crying and breathing heavily. Dalton was holding her when she began to “arch her head and shoulders back and then lost consciousness,” the report continued.
Dalton reported to detectives he laid the baby down and went to get Dea who was still outside. When the two returned the baby had quit breathing. The couple said they did chest compressions at that time and thereafter, took the baby to the hospital.
The child was air lifted to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City after a CAT scan showed she had sustained a brain injury.
The baby was placed on life support where she remained for three days until she passed on April 17, 2017.
An autopsy found the baby died from blunt force trauma to the brain. The medical examiner ruled the manner of death as a homicide, according to court records.
More specifically, the medical examiner opined that G.L.D. (the baby) died of head injuries resulting in subdural hemorrhage and ischemic injury to the brain, which were likely caused shortly before the baby went unresponsive,” charging documents state.
The report also disclosed prior injuries, including two rib fractures and a distal left humerus fracture, all healing at the time of death according to the medical examiner’s report. The couple allegedly did not have an explanation for the injuries or how they occurred.
In addition, the baby’s urine reportedly tested positive for morphine. Again, the couple had no explanation.
Dea allegedly admitted she and Dalton smoked marijuana every day, used methamphetamine about five days a week and occasionally used Heroin during their relationship.
Further investigation by detectives revealed the baby had been admitted to Cedar City Hospital for strep throat and severe dehydration just two weeks prior to the incident by Dr. Robert Dowse, a local pediatrician. She was discharged three days later on April 3, 2017.
Prior to being admitted to the hospital, Dea said the baby was current on all of her immunizations and did not have any health problems.
Police note, Dea and Dalton had been dating for about seven months and were frequently together during this time.
Dea reported the baby had been with her the entire day prior to the baby’s fatal injuries. During that time, the child slept most of the day. According to police, Dea said she was only able to wake once to get her up to eat some ramen noodles and a banana. The mother also noted her baby’s lazy telling investigators she was “concerned and thinking about taking the baby in for an examination.”
Dea and Dalton were allegedly arguing the night of the incident. Dea said she had told Dalton she wanted to break up with him as she believed he was cheating on her. It was this argument that led Dea to step outside for a cigarette.
Cedar City Police Detective Sgt. David Evans states in his report that while investigating the case he spoke with a witness who allegedly reported seeing Dea shake the baby at the residence of the witness approximately six months prior to the baby’s death.
“The witness reported that G.L.D was sitting in one of the recliners and wasn’t making much noise. The witness stated that Dea picked G.L.D up and began shaking her back and forth and yelling at her,” according to Evans’ report. “The witness stated that she was only a few feet away from Dea when this happened and that it was very upsetting to her.”
While talking to investigators, Dea referred to Dalton as a father to her kids and while she allegedly admitted he had a temper, she said she never saw him do anything to the baby that would have caused the types of injuries in question.
Judge Matthew Bell is set to hear the case.
If convicted, Dea faces 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison.
If you or someone you know is a victim of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence the Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center is available 24-hours a day through their various crisis lines. For domestic violence, call 435-865-7443. For rape and sexual assault, call 435-867-6149. For the Mobile Crisis Team, call 435-233-5732.
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