PALMDALE, CALIF. (AP) - A woman who reported her 18-month-old daughter missing now says the child died accidentally and that she dumped the body near a freeway, authorities said Friday.
Stacey Barker, 24, told detectives that when her daughter Emma Leigh died, she panicked and believed she would be blamed, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht said.
A body found Thursday in Sylmar, a few blocks from Interstate 5, was identified by coroner’s officials as Emma. The cause of death was not immediately determined.
Barker initially told investigators that she was knocked unconscious by someone while putting Emma into her car in Lancaster on Wednesday. She said Emma was gone when she awoke partially clad hours later in another city.
Sheriff’s Lt. Pat Nelson said Barker was suffering from a head injury when she first spoke to investigators. The details or cause of her injury were not immediately known.
Hecht said Barker told investigators where she dumped Emma’s body.
Officials said the mother was not being detained, but the case would be presented to the district attorney’s office.
Nelson said Barker was not a suspect, but added: “That may change as circumstances develop.”
Gary Barker, the woman’s father, declined to comment on his daughter’s claims, but told The Associated Press that his granddaughter’s death was “such an unnatural tragedy.” He said Barker and the child lived at his home and that he had last seen Emma on Tuesday night.
“I was holding her in the family room, and I was dancing with her and slowly dipping her,” he said. “After that it was bedtime, and Stacey gave her a bottle and put her to bed.”