Mom denies killing toddler, admits burying her

Feb. 12, 2014 at 4:40 PM

SANFORD, Fla., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The body of a Florida toddler whose mother denies killing her has been found buried in a yard in Crescent City, police said.

Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith said Tuesday the cause of Tariji Gordon's death has not been determined and she has not been ruled a homicide victim, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Smith said police are waiting for a report from the St. Johns County medical examiner.

Tariji's mother, Rachel Fryer, told investigators Monday the 2-year-old girl died of natural causes, police said. Fryer allegedly said she did CPR and gave Tariji asthma medication, and when those failed to revive her packed her body in a suitcase, got a friend to drive her to Crescent City and buried her in a yard.

The body was recovered Tuesday.

Fryer's children were put in foster care in 2011 after Tariji's twin brother, Tavont'ae, was accidentally asphyxiated. Investigators said at the time Fryer was sleeping on a couch with the twins and she rolled over on the boy.

Fryer was not charged with Tavont'ae's death but her four surviving children were removed from her care because of her drug use. They were returned to her two months ago after she completed a treatment plan.

She now faces charges of aggravated child neglect. A judge set bail at $950,000 Tuesday.

Investigators for Florida's Department of Children and Families are also trying to determine why the children were returned to Fryer and why caseworkers who made regular visits to her home did not pick up on evidence she was physically abusive, at least to Tariji.

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