A Virginia woman and her fiancé are accused of beating the woman’s 11-year-old daughter so seriously that the child’s stomach split open days before she died.
Latoya Smith, 33, and Demont Harris, 43, are charged with second-degree murder for the May 18 slaying of Heaven Watkins, who relatives told WSET had autism and cerebral palsy. Emergency crews were reportedly called to the Norfolk home at 8:30 a.m. following reports of an unresponsive child, who police said sustained “serious injuries” and died at the scene, according to the Daily Press.
A week following the tween’s death, an official with the Office of the Norfolk Medical Examiner confirmed to WAVY that Watkins had died from blunt force trauma to the head and torso and ruled her death a homicide.
Reports recently presented in court also suggested that Watkins was hit so hard that her abdomen had split days before she would be found dead at her Norfolk home. According to WSET, officials said the victim had brain bleeding, 12 to 13 old rib fractures, and two to three new rib fractures that occurred days before Watkins died.
Officials also claimed that Smith admitted to punishing Watkins for bringing a toy into the bathroom and to feeding her only bread and water a few days before she died.
WTKR reported that the court heard about a February 26 incident where Harris put Watkins’ hand under hot water until she was burned. The child reportedly was hospitalized for six days and required a skin graft as a result. The couple was recently charged in connection with that incident, according to the news station.
Smith’s 6- and 8-year-old daughters are in the custody of Child Protective Services. Smith’s only son is living with his aunt because he didn’t want to live with his mother. The family told WTKR that an aunt will be caring for Smith’s daughters.
Meanwhile, the Virginia couple was ordered to be held without bail.
[Featured image: Latoya Smith, Demont Harris/Norfolk Police Department; Heaven Watkins/WAVY video screenshot]