YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) – A 31-year-old woman is charged with felony murder and child neglect after the death of a 16-month-old child who was in her care.
York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. Danny Diggs said Kayla Denise Ziegenhagen left a 16-month old girl and an 8-year-old girl on their own Tuesday while she took her two children and another child she was watching to a veterinarian to get treatment for her dog.
When she returned to the home on Challenger Avenue, in the Landing at Langley Air Force housing complex, Sheriff Diggs said Ziegenhagen discovered the unresponsive 16-month-old. The toddler was in a car safety seat in an upstairs bedroom. Sheriff Diggs said the child was placed in the seat earlier in the day while the older children were playing in the backyard. The child likely fell asleep before Ziegenhagen left the house.
“There was a car seat, and what we think happened was the child tried to get out of the car seat, unbuckled the lower part of it, then slid down, and then got caught by the two remaining straps, and those two straps cut off her breathing, and she died of strangulation,” Diggs said.
Investigators said autopsy results indicated the child died from strangulation.
Sheriff Diggs told WAVY News’ Andy Fox the mother of the 16-month-old child was intercepted by while coming home by Langley security. It is unclear how they knew who she was, but Lt. Dennis Ivey with the sheriff’s office broke the news to her that her child had passed.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said. “I broke it to her as softly as I could, but I had to tell her that her child was dead. I will never forget the pleasant look on her face morphing into the horror about what I had just told her. It’s unbelievable,” Lt. Ivey told WAVY.com.
“On top of that, she’s nine months pregnant, ready to deliver that day or any day, I mean, what a tragedy could have happened, because stressful situations may send you into labor,” Sheriff Diggs said.
As this was unfolding, Ivey and others on scene who were concerned for the mother’s well being called for medical assistance.
“It was her world, and we gave her whatever she needed. We all held onto her, and we hope we gave her some comfort, and that’s what we strived to do,” Ivey said.
Ziegenhagen was arrested Thursday and charged with two felony counts of child neglect and one count of felony murder. According to the Sheriff’s Office, “felony murder is a murder charge that results in the accidental death of another person during the commission of another felonious act, in this case felony child neglect.”
Ziegenhagen was being held without bond at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail. She refused WAVY News 10’s request for an interview.
Call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP of you have any information about the crime.