A young mother was charged Friday with assault causing the death of her 7-month-old baby, the third time in recent years that a mother has been charged with her child's murder in the Antelope Valley.
Anaiyah Perry, 21, did not enter a plea when she appeared in court in Lancaster, and was ordered held in jail in lieu of $2 million. She's expected to appear in court again for her arraignment in two weeks.
The coroner's autopsy found that baby Royal M. died of blunt force neck trauma, and determined it to be a homicide. But the law enforcement investigation stretched 10 months before authorities this week arrested Perry, and the Lso Angeles County District Attorney's Office filed counts of assault and murder.
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A 911 call brought emergency responders to a Lancaster home the afternoon of last Nov. 6. The child was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, but could not be revived.
Carrying his baby, the father went to a neighbor's house seeking help, recalled Debbie Stober, whose family was then sharing the house next door with another family.
"He said, 'help me, help me, my baby's not breathing.'"
Stober called 911 as her husband performed CPR with directions from the 911 call-taker until paramedics arrived. During that time, Perry, then 20, held the couple's other son, staying mostly outside, Stober said.
The young couple were living with his parents at their home. It was Stober's understanding that the grandparents provided much of the child care, but at the time were away from the house on election day in order to vote.
"They're good people, a good family," said Day Riggle, the next door neighbor, who spoke of the devastating impact on them. "The mother of the baby, that's another story. But I don't know how much of that, of my feelings toward her now, are because of what I know."
The criminal filing does not assert any allegations of previous abuse by Perry, nor does it describe what the assault entailed.
When the father brought the baby, the initial suspicion was that he may have choked on something, the neighbors said. Later, in conversations with authorities, they were told the possibility of shaken baby syndrome was being examined, they said. Perry is 5 foot 11 and weighs 270 pounds, according to the booking records of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
It is the latest in a series of alleged deadly abuse cases by parents that have rocked the Antelope Valley.
In 2013, 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez died after months of what a jury found to be abuse and torture. Last year, the boy's mother Pearl Sinthia Fernandez was sentenced to life in prison, and her boyfriend Isauro Aguirre was sentenced to death.
The prosecution is currently seeking the death penalty against Heather Barron and boyfriend Kareem Leiva in the death last year of her son Anthony Avalos, 10.
In both cases, before the children died, the county's Department of Children and Family Services had launched investigations into reports of abuse, but allowed the children to remain with their birth mothers and their boyfriends.
The neighbors of Royal M's parents do not believe there had ever been occasion for DCFS to come to the house.
After Royal's death, the parents moved to Los Angeles, and the grandparents continued to care for Royal's brother. At Perry's appearance Friday, the court issued a protective order for him.