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Lakeland mother arrested after 11-month-old daughter dies from severe burns, brain bleed

Posted at 6:58 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 23:22:28-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lakeland mother is facing aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter charges in the death of her 11-month-old daughter, according to the Lakeland Police Department.

Pamela Black, 21, is accused of purposely shaking her daughter, Serenity Gunter, and submerging her in scalding water on October 23, 2018. It happened at an apartment on North Socrum Loop Road, according to police.

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According to an arrest affidavit, Black lived in the apartment with her husband Taylor Smith, his 2-year-old son and a roommate.

Black told police she was giving her daughter a bath in the kitchen sink when she gave the baby toys and turned around to clean the kitchen counter. According to a press release, Black told police she heard the baby whining and turned to find the hot water on. She told police Serenity must have "bumped it."

Black told police they put aloe and baby powder on Serenity's burns. Then, nearly one-and-a-half hours after Serenity was injured, a friend drove them to Lakeland Regional Health, according to police.

Serenity had third-degree burns covering over half of her body and was transported by helicopter to Tampa General Hospital for intensive care, a press release says.

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Police say that Black's account doesn't match the pattern of Serenity's burns, citing statements from medical professionals.

Detectives believe Serenity was purposely shaken and immersed in the scalding water.

"Based on the physical evidence from Serenity Gunter’s body, detectives believe these burns were purposely inflicted and her body was manipulated prior to being immersed into scalding water in the kitchen sink," the press release said. "The autopsy revealed evidence to support that the child had been purposely shaken during the same time the burns were sustained."

Serenity was pronounced dead on November 6, 2018 at Tampa General.

Black was arrested on Tuesday following an investigation and charged with aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child. She is being held without bond.