LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas judge expressed shock Tuesday at the severity of injuries found on a 5-year-old girl whose death led to murder and felony child abuse charges against her 25-year-old mother and the mother’s former professional football player boyfriend.
“Once you’ve seen them, you can’t ever unsee them,” Justice of the Peace Melanie Andress-Tobiasson said of the images as she rejected a bid by La’Rayah Davis’ mother, Amy Taylor, for release on bail pending a May 21 preliminary hearing of evidence or indictments in the case. The photos were not made public.
Taylor sobbed as she and former NFL and Canadian Football League running back Cierre Wood, 28, stood shackled in court.
“She is innocent until proven otherwise,” said Sarah Hawkins, Taylor’s court-appointed public defender.
Wood spoke only to say he understood the charges. His attorney, Thomas Ericsson, said Wood maintained his innocence and Ericsson may file a written request for his release on bail.
Prosecutor Michelle Jobe said a grand jury is expected to hear evidence about the April 9 death La’Rayah, and cited Taylor’s statement to police that she sat on the girl while disciplining her about a week before her death.
Jobe said La’Rayah died with internal injuries to her lungs and diaphragm, and the judge noted what she called “injuries consistent with extreme abuse” including a lacerated liver, broken ribs and “severe injuries from the child’s forehead to the child’s about mid-thighs.”
Paramedics reported finding the girl unresponsive at Wood’s apartment, where Taylor, a certified nurse’s aide, and the girl moved in after Taylor and Wood began dating late last year. La’Rayah was pronounced dead at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center.
The Clark County coroner ruled she died of multiple injuries and ruled her death a homicide.
Taylor told detectives that she and Wood were the only two people who could have killed the child, “so it had to be one of us,” according to a police report.
Wood told investigators he spanked the girl once when she misbehaved, but Taylor disapproved so he adopted exercise as discipline. He called it “learning through fun.”
Wood played football for Notre Dame before stints with Houston, New England and Buffalo in the NFL and Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League.
He told detectives he had La’Rayah do sit-ups and other exercises including running sprints in their apartment, and that the day she died La’Rayah fell backward while doing sit-ups and hit her head on the carpeted floor.
Taylor told police she was at a grocery store at the time.