ST. FRANCIS COUNTY, Ark. -- A three-year-old girl is dead after investigators say she was beaten and possibly raped at her home near Forrest City Friday morning, the St. Francis County Sheriff's Office confirms.
"To me it seems like she’s trying to breathe on her own, but she’s not," said the girl's mother, two hours before WREG got word of her death around 9:30 p.m.
She said her daughter was alert and watching TV when she left for work at 6 a.m.
Around 9:30 a.m., she said she got a call from her live-in boyfriend, Deonte Miller, urging her to return to their home on SFC 215. When she did, she found her daughter unresponsive.
Deputies initially charged Miller with first degree battery and set his bond at $250,000 cash. He is now charged with capital murder.
"He was actually holding her when I got there," said Cpl. Jeff Goff with the St. Francis County Sheriff's Office.
Goff was on the scene within minutes, rushing the girl to a nearby hospital and performing CPR on the way.
"She was bruised from the waist up," said Goff.
"Looks like she had a cord tied around her neck. Possibly, he tried to choke her," said Sheriff Bobby May.
May believes the girl may also have been raped since investigators found blood to support their suspicions.
The girl's mother refuses to believe it was Miller, who she said she's known since November.
"I don’t think he would do anything like that," she said.
Neighbors echoed that sentiment as WREG watched deputies execute a search warrant at the family home Friday afternoon, taking out brown bags filled with evidence as well as some of Miller's music equipment.
"He was very friendly with the children. I didn’t see anything in his personality that would say he would do anything to any of the children," said neighbor John Love.
But deputies said Miller, who has a criminal history, gave five different stories about how the girl got her injuries.
"One is she was out, they were out riding the bicycles and fell. Another was she was jumping up and down on the bed and fell," said May.
May said his office could also charge Miller with rape pending the results of a rape kit.
"It's a sad moment right now. My heart is broken," said the girl's mother, who asked for the public's prayers.