Utah mother and her boyfriend charged in the death of her 14-month-old daughter

Child, who died of brain trauma, also had healing rib and arm fractures, police say.

(Courtesy Iron County jail) Cherokee May Dea

A Cedar City woman and her boyfriend have been charged with murder and child abuse in connection the April death of the woman’s 14-month-old daughter.

Cherokee May Dea, 24, and Brendan Russell Dalton, 30, were each charged Wednesday in 5th District Court with first-degree felony murder for the death of the girl, identified in court documents as G.L.D.

They each also were charged with three counts of second-degree felony child abuse and one count of third-degree felony child endangerment.

An autopsy determined the child died of blunt force trauma to the brain, charges state. The medical examiner also found older injuries — two rib fractures, and fractures to the child’s right and left arms — that were healing.

The child’s urine also tested positive for morphine, according to charging documents.

The couple had no explanation for police regarding the fractures or the morphine, prosecutors allege. They both admitted to occasionally using heroine, using marijuana daily and using methamphetamine about five days a week, charges state.

The child had no known health problems until April 1, when she was admitted to the Cedar City Hospital for strep throat and severe dehydration, charges state.

On the night of April 13, the couple again took the child to the hospital after she had a seizure and stopped breathing, charges state.

She was flown to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where she died four days later.

The couple had been dating for about seven months when, on April 13, they argued because Dea believed Dalton was seeing other women. During the argument, Dea had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, and that is when the child, who was in the house with Dalton, suffered the seizure, charges state.

Police investigators talked to a witness who about six months prior to the baby’s death, saw Dea pick the child up and shake her back and forth while yelling at her, charges state.

Dea, who referred to Dalton as a father to her kids, told police that although he has a temper, she never saw him to anything to the child that might have injured her, charges state.

A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Jan. 3.

Court records show Dea has four prior drug-related convictions in the past five years, including a plea earlier this week to a misdemeanor count of possession of methamphetamine.

Dalton’s record includes convictions for attempted burglary, drug possession and for fleeing from police in a stolen car.