Mom of Sanford girl found in shallow grave arrested

Mom of Sanford girl found in shallow grave arrested

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The body of a missing Central Florida toddler has been discovered in a shallow grave in Putnam County.

During a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith said the body of 2-year-old Tariji Gordon was found in Crescent City, which is located about an hour north of Sanford.

In addition to clothing, investigators said a suitcase was found on the same property where the child was discovered, which they believe may have been used to transport the body.

The child's mother, 32-year-old Rachel Fryer, was arrested earlier Tuesday and was being held without bond on a charge of aggravated child neglect.  Investigators said Fryer never reported her daughter missing.

According to an arrest affidavit, Fryer said she found her daughter unresponsive on the morning of Thursday, February 6.  She said she attempted to revive her daughter, utilizing CPR and applying the child's breathing treatments for asthma, which included a nebulizer.  She said that after about 30 minutes, she stopped attempts to revive the child and wrapped the toddler in a blanket.

Later in the afternoon, Fryer said she placed her daughter's fully dressed body in a suitcase and called on a friend to request a ride to Crescent City.  She said her friend took her to Putnam County to a specific address where she buried her daughter.  Fryer said her friend returned the next morning to pick her up and take her back to Sanford.

Investigators said the child lived at a home on Oleander Avenue in Sanford with Fryer and three other children.  

This is the second child death reported at the household.  A male infant was reported dead in March of 2011.   According to the medical examiner, the boy died of accidental asphyxiation.   A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Children and Families said Fryer's four children were placed into foster care after that incident, because investigators had concerns that Fryer had substance abuse issues.  The four children were given back to Fryer this past November. 

Authorities will now review the case to see if that was the right decision.  In the meantime, Fryer's three children are now back in the foster care system.   Authorities have also confirmed that Fryer is pregnant with her sixth child.

Sanford police are interviewing Fryer and have spoken to Timothy Gordon.  Mr. Gordon is confirmed to be the father of two of Fryer's children.

Police said they became involved in the investigation early Monday after a request was made by DCF to assist with a welfare check.

A candle light vigil was held Tuesday night in front of Fryer's apartment in Goldsboro.  People gathered to remember Tariji.

"I am just waiting to see what really happened, and I am praying for Rachel and Timothy," said Vanessa Bender, Timothy Gordon's aunt.

Fryer appeared before a judge on Tuesday afternoon.  Her bond was set $950,000.  Officials said if Fryer does post bond, she will not be able to leave Seminole County.   Fryer is expected to be in court again on April 1.


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