Michelle Harris, 28, the mother of 23-month-old Zion Harris who died from a laceration to her liver on Sept. 24, was arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder for beating the child to death, reports NOLA.com.
“Through the course of the investigation detectives learned that Harris struck her daughter after she did not listen to her,” police spokesman Officer Garry Flot said in a written statement. The coroner’s office classified the death as a murder due to blunt force trauma to the body.
Baby Zion’s death was initially listed as an “unclassified death,” but after the autopsy, the coroner’s office classified her death as “murder due to blunt force trauma to the body.”
According to local TV station WWLTV, Zion’s stepfather noticed she “wasn’t acting like herself” on an outing to the park. When he called Harris with his concerns, she told him to bring the child home. She eventually became unresponsive and 911 was called.
“She was a happy-go-lucky kid,” said Zion’s great aunt, Cassandra Norman “I mean, it’s just unbelievable.”
Harris, who is originally from New Orleans but had moved to Atlanta, was in town to help nurse a sick relative. Friends and family claim to be shocked by Zion’s murder allegedly at the hands of her mother, reports The Advocate.
“You didn’t see any red flags with Michelle because of the way she treats her kids,” said Vanessa Scott, a family friend. “You don’t expect that.”
Harris’ bond was set at $350,000 and she remained in jail Thursday night.
Authorities are currently investigating whether or not Zion was the victim of repeated abuse or if this was an isolated incident.