BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A man and a woman have been arrested in connection with the death of a one-year-old child, according to the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD).
The child’s mother, Christy Fontenot, 35, was arrested on Monday, April 5, in connection to her child’s death on charges of second-degree cruelty to juveniles and failure to seek assistance, police say.
Authorities said Jonathan Dunn, 34, was arrested early Sunday, March 28, for the death of Ja’Leah Fontenot, 1.
On Monday, March 29, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said the autopsy showed Fontenot died from multiple blunt force injuries.
Police were dispatched to the 4000 block of Peerless St. just before 11 p.m. on March 27 because of a medical call. Fontenot was found unresponsive with multiple bruises and with a large burn on her leg.
The one-year-old was taken to an area hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Dunn was arrested and booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on charges of first-degree murder and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile. District Attorney Hillar Moore confirmed Dunn is being held with no bond.
Dunn has been arrested several times in the past. In 2018, he was arrested on counterfeiting and forgery charges. In 2014, he was arrested on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. In 2011, he was arrested for possession of marijuana (first offense). In 2009, he was arrested on charges of aggravated second-degree battery and armed robbery.
“I feel bad, because with this family, it’s just death, after death after death,” said Sandra Sterling, the victim’s aunt.
The baby’s father is Gino Sterling. He wasn’t around when his child was killed and got the call no one would ever want to get.
“So, I was telling him, I said, ‘Gino, you okay?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Your baby was murdered last night.’ He said, ‘Who, Keke?’ I said, ‘No, Ja’Leah.’ And he said, ‘Huh?’ Then, he said, ‘I told them to get my baby.’ And then the phone dropped and I just heard a scream,” Sterling explained.
Family members said Dunn also had two children with Ja’Leah’s mother, so he would frequently watch over all her children when she needed some help.
“The girl had told my sister that the guy (Dunn) had said that he was going to kill that baby. And that’s when my sister said stop carrying my niece around there to his house, she had told her,” Sterling added.
Several neighbors on Peerless Street said they do not believe there was any way Dunn could’ve done such a thing to that baby and they want a more thorough investigation into what happened.
“I don’t believe that boy (Dunn) did that,” said one neighbor who didn’t want to be identified. “It hurt me so bad because I know he loved them children. Always wanted to see that they had something to eat, something to drink and everything.”
The neighbor has lived down the street for 20 years. She said Dunn was always nice to her.
“All the time, he’d come and talk to me and tell me I’ve got the children down there or he’d have the children with him. Yeah and he had to be tending to all those children because the baby wasn’t even his but he’d keep it because she (Ja’Leah’s mother) be gone. She didn’t show up,” the neighbor added.
Now, family members are preparing a funeral for a tragedy that many believe could’ve been prevented.
“It could’ve been avoided. Protect your babies. If she (mother) didn’t want that kid, my sister would’ve taken her. She could’ve left them (with her),” said Sterling.
Officials with BRPD said the investigation into the toddler’s death is still ongoing.
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