Kentucky Mother Accused of Murder After 17-Month-Old Daughter Dies Following Sexual Assault — 'This Is One of the Most Severe Cases of Abuse,' Official Says

kentucky mother accused murder  month old girl dies
Source: Bell County Detention Center; Gentry Griffey Funeral Chapel and Crematory

Aug. 7 2023, Published 2:17 p.m. ET

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A 17-month-old Kentucky girl has died after she was allegedly sexually assaulted — and now her mother has been arrested in connection with the baby’s death, according to authorities.

On July 28, the toddler, who was severely injured, was taken to the Middlesboro ARH Hospital, WBIR reported.

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Due to the extent of her injuries, the victim, later identified as Elena, was flown to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Officials confirmed Elena died on July 30.

“That somebody could be that sick out there to let this go on. I have seen some kids like that, but not at this age,” Caley Ayers of the Middlesboro Police Department said, WBIR reported.

The child’s mother, 21-year-old Erica Lawson, was arrested and was being held at the Bell County Detention Center.

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She was charged with manslaughter, criminal abuse to a child under 12 years old, failure to report child abuse and wanton endangerment, authorities said. She could face more charges later.

Ayers noted, "In my time with the commonwealth, this is one of the most severe cases of abuse, specifically because that baby was 17 months old at that time.”

Authorities said Elena was sexually abused and detectives have been tracking down hundreds of leads in their search for the second suspect. They have collected DNA from multiple people for analysis.

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Police said the child’s father has not been charged with a crime, but officials added they are working to apprehend a second suspect.

"The mother and father were not together. The father is not a suspect at this time, but that could change," Ayers said.

Authorities said Elena’s uncle went to police several weeks ago after suspecting someone burned the baby. However, police could not locate the child and the uncle did not know where his niece was at the time.

The victim's mother, Lawson, was being held on a $1 million bond and her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8.


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