Couple arrested in toddler's death

Tiara Dunmars (Source: EBRSO)
Tiara Dunmars (Source: EBRSO)
Jacqueline Cheatham
Jacqueline Cheatham

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two women are charged with the murder of a toddler, and one of them is the baby's mother. East Baton Rouge Sheriff's deputies arrested them after the autopsy report was released Tuesday.

The St. Jean apartment complex is filled with children, Tuesday night, news of a 23-month old boy, Justyce Cheatham's, death at this apartment has people shocked.

"Words cannot even describe how you feel when you hear this kind of thing happened. It's tragic," said Billy Reaux, who lives in the apartment complex.

"I was here cleaning my car and we saw an ambulance pull up, and we saw a lady running to the ambulance with the baby. The baby was dangling pretty much. We didn't know what was going on," said Michelle Peoples.

According to East Baton Rouge Sheriff's deputies, Cheatham stopped breathing last Thursday and was rushed to the hospital. On Saturday, Justyce died. Wednesday, results of his autopsy revealed much more.

"The child died of blunt force trauma to the head. They believe that there was multiple blows," said Casey Hicks with the EBR Sheriff's Office.

It's why the toddler's mother, Jacqueline Cheatham, 21, and her life-partner, Tiara Dunmars, 23, were both arrested Tuesday and charged with first degree murder.

The arrest report showed Dunmars saying the boy was eating cereal out of a box and playing and then she noticed him gasping for air, clench up and fall to the ground. Even though the boy's mother said she was at work when Dunmars called to tell her little Justyce stopped breathing, Hicks said both face murder charges.

"They believe it happened sometime Thursday morning before the mother left for work so that's when the child was in the care of both women. They also found evidence of older injuries, older broken ribs, broken bones around the ankle, bruising, things like that," said Hicks.

Tyron Addison lived next door to the couple for the past year.

"When I would see them come down, they were always nice with the child. They treated their children very well," said Addison.

"I don't know how a parent or a guardian would ever do that to a child, but especially to a child. They're defenseless. That's not right," said Peoples.

Deputies said both women initially denied any part in the killing and when officials told them the little boy's injuries were intentional and not accidental, the two stopped cooperating.

Also, deputies said they had never been called out to the couple's apartment in the past.

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