Police are charging a Michigan man with murdering his 14-month-old stepdaughter on Feb. 14.
Baby Laylah Heether fell into a coma after suffering severe injuries, with 29-year-old stepfather Wayne Brown alleging she had fallen off the couch, reports WOOD-TV.
After a week in hospital, Laylah’s health was not showing any signs of improvement.
“Laylah Heether was the victim of a horrid abuse case, on February, 14th 2017, after many test, scan, and everything possible, Laylah’s parents were forced to make a decision no parent should ever have to make,” reads the child’s GoFundMe page. “After a week of her little soul fighting as hard as she could, Laylah gained her wings.”
Despite Brown’s claim that she fell off the couch, it became clear to authorities the child was most likely beaten. Later reports indicate she was likely also sexually abused as her genitals showed signs of injury.
“Trauma is the only thing that could have caused these injuries,” said a doctor at Grand Rapids’ Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, where Laylah was treated.
Shortly after the baby died, Brown was arrested on charges of abusing the baby’s mother.
While he was released, he was soon back in jail after authorities found reason to believe he may be responsible for the Laylah’s death. He was arraigned on murder charges on Feb. 24.
From loved ones to strangers online, many expressed their shock and grief over the baby’s death.
“My heart breaks for this sweet child!” wrote one woman on the Justice For Laylah’s Facebook page. “I’m a foster mom.. And i see so much brokenness in the system.. I hope justice is served! Praying for justice.. Comfort.. And please keep the good lord close. Im truly sorry. I couldnt imagine.. And no words could ever help. Prayers.”
Some were outraged and said Brown — if convicted — should face severe punishment, ranging from life in jail to the death penalty.
“Federal law needs to change!” wrote one woman. “I continue to hear stories like this way too often!”
Many are trying to help in whatever way they can, including donating money to help pay for Laylah’s funeral expenses.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” wrote one donor on the GoFundMe page, which aims to raise $3,500. “I don’t know what I would do if that was one of my babys. Sending prayers your way.”