On New Years Day 2018, Police in Sumpter Township, Michigan responded to a call regarding an unresponsive child. Police and the medical examiner said that the child’s injuries were the worst they had ever witnessed in their career. Gabrielle Barrett died as a result of septic shock related to horrendous abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother, Candice Diaz, and Candice’s boyfriend Brad Fields. Last week a judge sentenced Diaz to prison after she accepted a plea offer from the prosecution.
When they arrived at the home, the girl, Gabrielle Barrett, laid on a bathroom floor with a towel covering her lower body. Gabrielle’s mother, Candice Diaz, and Candice’s boyfriend Brad Fields were in the bathroom attending to the girl.
In court, the police officers that arrived at the scened described a child with red marks on her feet, legs, knees, and elbows. Gabrielle had significant bruising all over her body. During court testimony, Officer George Salajan said the child’s skin was peeling off her body. He described the red marks as typical with scalding injuries.
Candice told police that her daughter, who she called Gabby, wanted to take a bath. Candice allowed Gabby to draw her bath, and she left Gabby in the tub while she made pancakes.
However, evidence collected at the scene did not match the statements made by Candice. Authorities say they found melted skin in the bathtub drain. Also, Gabby’s burns were so significant her large toe fell off her foot. Gabby had bruises all over her body, and her scalp was missing large chunks of hair.
Paramedics rushed Gabrielle to the hospital. When Gabby arrived at the hospital, doctors pronounced her dead. Following the girl’s death, Candice and Brad fled the state of Michigan to Florida. The couple was later apprehended on the Georgia/Florida border and extradited to Michigan.
During the investigation, authorities collected computers, old cell phones, and a nanny cam that was in Gabby’s room. As police went through the digital evidence, they realized that Fields and Diaz tortured Gabby for months.
Police found videos of Gabby being forced to sleep on a floor while a mattress was propped up on the wall. Diaz and Fields did not allow Gabby to use any blankets to keep warm. Instead, they wrapped Gabby in a black garbage bag for warmth.
In addition to the videos, police said they found messages between Diaz and Fields discussing the abuse and issues with Gabby.
When a medical examiner performed an autopsy on Gabby, her official cause of death was a septic shock. However, Gabby’s body had such significant burns that the shock likely resulted from being placed in scalding hot water.
When questioned about the crimes, Diaz provided numerous excuses for what happened to Gabby. Initially, she denied any responsibility for the injuries. However, evidence collected by police outlined Diaz played a critical role in her daughter’s death.
During Diaz’s court proceedings her attorney provided information about Diaz’s mental health. Diaz had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, her attorney noted that Diaz suffered horrific abuse for the first five years of her life.
Despite her mental health diagnosis, the court found that Diaz was competent to stand trial. Through work between prosecutors and defense attornies, the two sides agreed on charges. Diaz agreed to plead guilty to murder and child abuse charges.
Last week Diaz appeared before the court for her sentencing. Presiding Judge Vonda Evans listened to a victim statement written by Gabrielle’s paternal aunt. The paternal side of the family asked for the maximum sentence for Diaz.
After the judge heard final statements by both the prosecutor and defense, she unloaded her rage on Diaz on behalf of Gabby.
In Judge Evans’ statement to Diaz, she said this was the worst case of child abuse she had ever seen in 21 years on the bench. Evans outlined the injuries to Gabby that included dental decay, burn injuries on her posterior, vomit in her lungs, immersion burns from being placed in scalding hot water, and alopecia on her scalp from someone ripping her hair out before she died.
Evans told Diaz that no mother would ever allow a child to go through such horrific abuse. She said to Diaz that she was not a mother but an animal. Instead, Evans’ insisted that Diaz made her relationship with Brad a priority over Gabby.
Additionally, Evans told Diaz that in nature male lions kill offspring of lionesses that are not their own. Judge Evans said that Brad acted on animal instinct and killed Gabby because she was not his biological child. Evans also stated that Brad impregnated Diaz with his offspring to mark his territory. The couple shared a one-year-old child Zoey.Evans insisted that Diaz allowed the abuse to occur because Gabby was a problem in their relationship. Ultimately, Evans said Diaz allowed Gabby to be murdered to fix the problem so the couple could go on with their lives.
To drive home her point, Evans said that on New Year’s Eve, the day before Gabby died, Diaz sent out social media New Years Cards that included Diaz, Fields, and. Zoey. Evans said Diaz omitted Gabby from the card because she knew the child would not live to see another year.
Finally, the judge told Diaz that being a victim as a child is not an excuse to become a perpetrator. She acknowledged that Diaz had experienced horrific trauma, but Evans refused to grant the defense leniency for her traumatic upbringing.
The court sentenced Diaz to a minimum of 30 years in prison to a maximum of 60 years in prison. Evans gave Diaz credit for the 330 days she had already served. Evans finished by telling Diaz that she belonged in a cage like the animal that she was.
At the time of Gabby’s death, she was only 4.5 years old. The family says she was a loving and sweet child. Her maternal grandmother said she loved to draw, give hugs, and giggle. Both sides of the family told the court that they missed Gabby dearly.
As Judge Evans stated to Diaz, mental illness is never an excuse to murder a child. Services are in place around the country to help parents dealing with mental health issues. Instead of seeking help for her illnesses, Diaz chose to medicate herself with drugs.
Through her clouded and drug-induced mind, she allowed her boyfriend to torture a sweet and innocent girl. Diaz chose to not take care of herself. By making that choice, she contributed to the horrific murder of an innocent girl.
If you are a parent experiencing mental health issues and need help, please go to the National Alliance for Mental Illness for resources. Mental illness is treatable, and with proper care, most people can live a healthy and productive life.
Additionally, if you believe a child is a victim of abuse, please say something. Humans have incredible intuition and we know when something is wrong.
Report any suspected abuse of the child to your local authorities. Be the voice for a child that cannot speak for themselves.
So many people failed Gabby in this case. We must protect our children from abuse and neglect. Be brave and speak out when you see violence and neglect. Our children’s lives depend on it.
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