A 22-year-old Detroit man has been arrested and charged in the death and sexual assault of his eight-month-old daughter.
James Saltmarshall was arraigned on Monday on charges of felony murder, first-degree child abuse and first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the slaying of his baby daughter, Janiyah.
The baby died just days after he and his girlfriend regained custody of her.
Appearing before 22nd District Court Judge Sabrina Johnson, Saltmarshall was overcome with emotion and sobbed uncontrollably.
‘Wait, wait, this never happened,’ he exclaimed in a high-pitched voice, speaking through tears. ‘Wait, wait a minute. Can I call my mom, can I please call my mom?’
Saltmarshall’s mother, Aisha Saltmarshall, said in an interview with the station WJBK that her granddaughter’s death could have been prevented had local police and caseworkers listened to her pleas and allowed her to continue caring for the baby.
According to a press release from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, the case began unfolding last Thursday when the Inkster Police Department got a call at around 4.23pm about an unresponsive infant found at Alpine Motel in the 2600 block of Michigan Avenue.
The baby was rushed to a local hospital suffering from trauma to her head and rectal tearing. Three days later, Janiayh Saltmarshall succumbed to her injuries.
According to the release, the baby’s mother headed to work on the morning of the incident and left her boyfriend, James Saltmarshall, alone with their baby, who was described as being in good health at the time. Hours later, she was found unresponsive and suffering from injuries.
Saltmarshall initially told police that he was sleeping on a bed next to his daughter, then got up to use the bathroom and when he returned, the girl was not breathing. He called 911 and started performing CPR on the infant.
Lt Jeffrey Smith told the Detroit Free Press the suspect’s story later changed, and in a subsequent interview the 22-year-old claimed that his daughter fell off the bed and he shook her in an attempt to wake her up.
When confronted with evidence of an alleged sexual assault on the child, her father suggested that someone may have broken into their hotel room while he and Janiyah were asleep and done something to her.
Speaking to the Detroit news station, Aisha Saltmarshall revealed that she had been caring for the infant until last Monday, when police showed up at her home with Child Protective Services caseworkers and made her hand over the baby to her son and his girlfriend, despite the grandmother’s protestations that she would not be safe with them.
The grandmother said after Janiyah was taken away from her, she called every county agency, warning them that her granddaughter was in danger, but she says her concerns fell on deaf ears.
‘I just wanted her safe,’ the woman said. ‘I didn’t have to have custody of her. She just needed to be a in a safe environment, and the environment she was in was not a safe environment.’
Aisha said her son’s girlfriend had other children taken away from her in the past, and there were allegations and counter-allegations of domestic abuse in their household.
Law enforcement officials have responded to Aisha Saltmarshall’s claims by stating that it was CPS that made the decision to have Janiyah returned to her biological parents, and that James Saltmarshall had all the proper custody documents on hand.
The 22-year-old murder suspect was ordered held on $2million bond and is due back in court for a probable cause hearing on Wednesday.