BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Officers with the Baton Rouge Police Department have arrested the mother of 16-month-old Ja’Leah Fontenot, who died the weekend of March 27 after her mother left her with a 34-year-old Baton Rouge man. He was later charged in her death.
On Monday, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force helped BRPD detectives arrest the child’s mother, 35-year-old Christy Fontenot, of 4858 Peerless St.
She was booked in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on charges of second-degree cruelty to juveniles and failure to seek assistance.
Officers arrived to a Peerless Street address on Saturday, March 26 just before 11 p.m. after receiving a medical call. They found the baby unresponsive, and she had bruises on her body and a burn mark on her leg, according to BRPD.
She was pronounced dead after first responders rushed her to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.
The baby had been in the care of 34-year-old Jonathan Dunn of Peerless Street, who was arrested the next day and charged with first-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile.
On Monday, March 29, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William “Beau” Clark announced the results of Ja’Leah’s autopsy report. He concluded that her death was a homicide caused by blunt force injuries.
A newly released affidavit reveals that the residence at 4858 Peerless St., where police had found Ja’Leah unresponsive, was in “deplorable condition,” with no running water or electricity. Detectives further reported there was only one “inhabitable” room in the house, which was filled floor to ceiling with trash, clothes and old food.
Some pieces of the ceiling were missing, and others were falling. The house had black mold and contained a large number of hazards, including sharp objects like nails and wood, according to detectives.
The affidavit further reveals that Fontenot dropped off 16-month-old Ja’Leah and two of her other children, ages 3 and 7, at that house with Dunn.
Dunn reportedly told detectives that Fontenot frequently left the children with him, and that the children often arrived to him with bruises.
“Dunn stated anytime a family member or he would suggest to Fontenot to bring the children to the hospital for their injuries Fontenot would tell him not to because she didn’t want her kids taken from her,” the affidavit reads.
Witnesses and family members told detectives that Fontenot also had dropped the children off to them with injuries, and several people said they knew Dunn had abused Ja’Leah when she was in his care. Fontenot continued allowing Dunn to watch the baby, despite allegedly knowing about the abuse, witnesses said.
One witness said that, on more than one occasion, she watched Fontenot hit one of her children in the face. Someone had also allegedly witnessed Fontenot hitting her children with a spatula, according to the affidavit.
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