Parents face heavier charges when toddler dies


BILOXI, Mississippi (AP) – Charges have been laid against the parents of a 2-year-old child who died in a Mississippi hospital last month, authorities said.

Joseph David Heard, 38, and Hailey Leann Heard, 21, of Biloxi, the child’s stepfather and mother, were arrested on Wednesday on charges of child abuse. The charges were upgraded Thursday to capital murder.

“The increased charges are the result of a collaborative investigation by several local and state agencies,” police said in a press release.

The case stems from an incident on December 27. Investigators said the woman called for help around 6 a.m. after finding her son unconscious. First responders arrived and took the boy to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, media reported.

Parents said the child stopped breathing and Joseph Heard performed CPR. However, a police arrest report detailed that the child had multiple bruises on the body and a fractured bone consistent with abuse, making death capital, WLOX-TV reported.

Both suspects are being held at Harrison County Jail. The deposit has not been established. It was not known if any of them had a lawyer who could speak for them.

Harrison County Coroner Brian Switzer said an autopsy would be performed.


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