A 3-year-old girl was found dead Friday outside a sober-living home in the unincorporated Riverside County community of Highgrove, and the girl's mother, who relatives said suffers from mental health issues, was arrested in the death.
Sheriff's deputies were called to the single-story residence in the 3000 block of Cannes Avenue, just north of Interstate 215, about 6:45 a.m. to investigate reports of a child down, Deputy Mike Vasquez said.
The victim, identified by family members as Zayla Rank, was found fatally injured in the backyard of the house with obvious signs of trauma, said sheriff's Sgt. Wallace Clear.
Deputies detained the roughly five people in the home for questioning, including the girl's mother, identified by authorities as 30-year-old Susan Rank. She was immediately taken into custody and sent to the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside where she was booked on suspicion of murder, Clear said.
Susan Rank's relatives, including her mother, said the woman was born with a brain tumor and suffered through mental illness her whole life. They said Susan Rank tried to seek mental health treatment, but never got the help she needed.
"It took everything I had as her mother to get her to go into those doors to ask for help in the first place," Susan Rank's mother, Lori Wood, said. "And she did it, and they still sent her away."
"She was the sweetest little baby," she said of Zayla.
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Wood said she was in the process of trying to obtain housing so she could get custody of Zayla. She said she had made appointments for her daughter in hopes of getting her mental health treatment, and one of those appointments is on Monday.
"Zayla couldn't protect herself," Susan's great-aunt Tracylyn Sharrit said. "Susan couldn't protect her, either - she was mentally gone."
"I think it's a tragedy how people can go try to get mental health (treatment) and get shoved out the door without any help or consideration," Wood said. "It needs to be addressed. It really does."
Asked what Susan Rank told her after Zayla was found dead, Wood said,
"She just said to me, she said, 'I tried to get help. I tried to get help.'"
A GoFundMe campaign initiated by Sharrit included discussion of the mental health issues the toddler's mother was facing.
Sharrit wrote on the page that Zayla's mother was "mentally ill" and took the girl's life, but didn't say how.
"My sister is in deep mourning over the loss of her grandbaby, and the fact that it was at the hands of her mentally ill daughter weighs heavy on her heart," Sharrit wrote.
"Please pray for us to find peace in this tragic happening. Mental illness took the life our beautiful baby at the hand of a very mentally sick mother. If you can't give funds, your prayers mean so much to our family."
Sharrit said the family has no means to pay for funeral costs. They're seeking $10,000 in donations.
If you would like to donate to a GoFundMe account set up for Zayla's funeral costs, you may do so here. Note that GoFundMe deducts 2.9 percent of all funds raised, plus 30 cents per donation, in the form of payment processing charges.