MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul police have identified the toddler found dead early Sunday morning on the back porch of her family’s home — and her mother now faces second-degree murder charges.
The criminal complaint states that officers were called to the 1000 block of East Third Street in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood at about 2:30 a.m. after a man called the city’s non-emergency line and hung up.
Officers were met by a man at the door, who said his 2-year-old daughter, Melody Vang, was dead. Police found the girl on the house’s back porch, wearing only a diaper, and wrapped in bedding and a rug. She had a black eye and bruising across her body, as well as several cuts and scratches. Rigor mortis had already set in.
The couple’s other five children, ranging in age from 8 months to 11 years, were taken into protective custody. The victim and her siblings had only returned to their parents custody within the last year after spending time in foster care. The family had also recently left a shelter and moved into their current residence.
Investigators interviewed the child’s father and her mother, 29-year-old Ciashia Lee. She admitted that she routinely abused Vang, far more than her other children. In the hours leading up to Vang’s death, Lee said she hit, punched and scratched her daughter several times because her crying woke up her baby.
Lee told officers that she “gets angry and hears voices.” She also said the victim had been spoiled in foster care, and was prone to falling to the floor and crying when she didn’t get her way. She said she beat her often, and put her in a “time out” closet as punishment, adding that the girl’s father didn’t know “half the s***” she did to physically and mentally harm the toddler.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office ruled the girl’s death a homicide from “closed head trauma due to assault.” The child’s mother and father were arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of murder.
Lee was charged Monday with second-degree murder without intent. If convicted, she faces up to 40 years in prison. The girl’s father has not been charged yet with any crimes.
Melody Vang is St. Paul’s first homicide victim of 2021.
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