A 29-year-old mother has been charged with second-degree murder in Minnesota, where authorities allege she repeatedly struck her 2-year-old daughter, resulting in severe head trauma that caused the child's death.
The charge against Ciashia Lee was filed Monday. Investigators allege Lee — in custody on $1 million bail — fatally injured her daughter, Melody Vang, who was pronounced dead early Sunday morning.
The Star Tribune, citing a criminal complaint, reports that police were called to a St. Paul residence shortly after 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, and arrived to find an unresponsive Melody.
The toddler, wearing only a diaper, had been rolled up in a blanket and then a rug, and was placed on the home's back porch, according to the complaint. Lee and her 42-year-old partner allegedly told police they did this so that the five other children living in the house would not see Melody's remains, the complaint states.
The paper reports those children are now in state custody. The Star-Tribune did not identify Lee's partner, who according to police was arrested but has not yet been charged with a crime.
Lee spoke to detectives, and, when asked about Melody, allegedly said, "I just kept hitting her," according to complaint. The mother allegedly told police she started hitting Melody because she wouldn't stop crying.
Lee's partner, the paper reports, told police Melody started crying around 3 p.m. on Saturday, and that her cries kept waking their infant. At some point soon after that, an angry Lee led the girl into another room, the partner explained. Police believe this is where the assault occurred.
Lee allegedly said that, after hitting her, she placed Melody in the "timeout" closet in the hallway before going to bed, the complaint states.
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Hours later, Lee told the partner to check on the girl. He found her on the floor, and said her skin was cold to the touch. Melody was not breathing, he allegedly said. The couple allegedly called Lee's brother for advice, and he told them to call the police, according to the complaint.
The partner denied witnessing the alleged assault, but told police he'd seen Lee strike the girl in the past, the complaint alleges.
According to the criminal complaint, Melody died 12 hours after her mother hit her.
Melody is the first person to die from a homicide in St. Paul in 2021.
Lee has yet to plead to the charge, and PEOPLE was unable to determine if she had retained legal counsel who could comment on the allegations on her behalf. Lee faces 40 years in prison if convicted.
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