Gruesome new details in torture death of girl, 4: 'Burns all over her body and bruising'

Michigan child murder follow-up

The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner called the death of a 4-year-old Sumpter Township girl the "worst child death case” in 27 years of practice, according to a court document obtained by the Free Press that seeks to terminate the parental rights to the girl’s half-sister.

The petition gave gruesome details of alleged physical abuse to Gabrielle Barrett, including the girl being burned so badly that her big toe fell off, and said police found melted skin in the bathtub drain.

“Gabrielle had burns all over her body and bruising to her entire body,” the document filed in the Lincoln Hall of Justice in Detroit said.

The girl’s mother, Candice Diaz, and the mother’s boyfriend, Brad Fields, have been charged with felony murder, second-degree murder, first-degree child abuse and torture. The U.S. Marshals Service arrested them Tuesday afternoon near Lake Park, Ga. They were captured while driving, officials said.

“Both ... have severe mental illnesses for which they admit they are not treating,” a court document said.

According to the petition, Diaz, 24, says she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. Fields, 28, said he has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, social anxiety, agoraphobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services wanted to remove Gabrielle’s 1-year-old half-sister from the home because of “improper supervision and physical abuse resulting in a child death,” according to the petition filed on Jan. 3.

Gabrielle suffered burns on her legs, buttocks and elbows, documents show.

Police found her unresponsive in the bathroom at the family's home and in cardiac arrest on Jan. 1. She was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor and pronounced dead shortly after arriving, officials said.

Police said the Washentaw County Medical Examiner's Office ruled her death a homicide and said there was evidence of multiple traumatic injuries. The Free Press' call to the medical examiner's office was not returned Tuesday.

The girl's mother gave a version of events to authorities about what happened but Fields "refused" to provide a Child Protective Services worker with details of what happened, authorities said.

According to the petition, the girl's mother said Gabrielle ran her own bath water on Dec. 31, causing burns to her skin, but Diaz did not seek medical care for her daughter. Diaz told authorities that the girl then wanted to take another bath the following day.

"The mother claimed she ran Gabrielle's bath and placed Gabrielle into the tub after she filled the tub halfway," the petition said. "The mother then claimed she left Gabrielle alone in the tub and went to the kitchen to make pancakes."

When she returned to the bathroom, Diaz said she found Gabrielle submerged in water up to her nose, pulled her out of the tub and the girl vomited. 

"The mother said she called Brad ... to the bathroom for help," the document said. "According to the mother, Gabrielle continued to vomit, and Fields attempted to provide CPR."

"Problems" with the girl started at 10:05 a.m. the mother told a Sumpter Township police detective questioning her about what happened, the petition said. But 911 was not called until 36 minutes later. 

While searching the home, police discovered cocaine, the petition said.  

MDHHS requested Gabrielle's half-sister be removed from the home. The court found the 1-year-old should not be returned to her parents and prohibited Diaz and Fields from having contact with their daughter, an order in the case shows.

Another hearing in the case is scheduled Jan. 25.

The petition did not say whether Child Protective Services had been involved with the family previously. An MDHHS spokesman declined to comment about any encounters. 

"Under the Michigan Child Protection Law, MDHHS is  prohibited from releasing case specifics about any CPS case — including whether there is or was a CPS case involving a specific individual," spokesman Bob Wheaton said in an e-mail to the Free Press on Tuesday.

Kyle Barrett, Gabrielle's father, said he had no knowledge of what was going at the mobile home where his daughter lived with Diaz and Fields. He faces no charges in connection with Gabrielle's death.

The 26-year-old Westland man said the last time he saw Gabrielle in person was just before he turned himself into authorities on a warrant in September. 

“I got to give her a kiss and a hug and say I loved her,” he said.

Barrett told the Free Press he got out of the Washtenaw County Jail on Jan. 3, two days after his daughter's death.

A court document obtained by the Free Press on Tuesday showed Barrett was ordered to pay $71 a month for child support and health care expenses. According to a document filed in May 2017, he owed $2,644 in past-due support. Barrett acknowledges he didn't pay the child support he owed.  

“I was going through some rough times and (trying) to get back on track," he told the Free Press.  "I was jobless, I was homeless and didn’t have any money to pay."

Gabrielle's paternal grandmother, Deborah Barrett, 47, of Westland said she never saw the mobile home where Gabrielle lived before her death. Police described it as filthy in 2016 when they went there on a domestic assault call. The police report said the home had decaying food, dirty dishes, flies throughout it, dog urine on the floor and dog feces in the children's room. 

When Deborah Barrett spent time with Gabrielle, the girl came to her house or they met somewhere and the child looked healthy, she said.

She called the her granddaughter's death “a nightmare."

"We wish it was a dream," she said. "We’re not sleeping. We’re not eating.” 

Contact Elisha Anderson: eanderson@freepress.com at 313-222-5144.

© 2018 Detroit Free Press


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