Police have arrested a 22-year-old Detroit man for the sexual assault and death of his 8-month-old daughter.
James Saltmarshall faced a court for the first time on April 24 to answer for his charges of felony murder, first-degree child abuse and first-degree criminal sexual conduct in the murder of his infant daughter, Janiyah.
Janiyah died just a few days after James and his girlfriend started caring for her, after having been under custody of her grandmother, Aisha Saltmarshall, Daily Mail reports.
James broke down in sobs as he appeared before 22nd District Court Judge Sabrina Johnson.
"Wait, wait, this never happened," speaking through tears in a high-pitched voice. "Wait, wait a minute. Can I call my mom, can I please call my mom?"
Aisha told station WJBK that her granddaughter's death would have been averted had caseworkers and police listened to her and permitted her to continue caring for the baby.
A statement to the press released by Wayne County Prosecutor's Office described how the local police received a call on April 20 alerting officials that an unresponsive infant was found in a motel.
The baby was immediately taken to a local hospital but died three days later from her injuries, a sustained trauma to her head and rectal tearing.
According to information put together by police, the baby's mother left for work on the morning of April 20, leaving her boyfriend, James, to tend to the baby, who was described as being in good health.
Hours later, Janiyah was found unconscious and with apparent injuries.
James' initial story was that he was sleeping on a bed next to his daughter, then went to use the bathroom, but when he checked on his daughter upon returning, she was not breathing. He says he called 911 and performed CPR on the infant.
Lt. Jeffrey Smith claims the suspect's story later changed, the Detroit Free Press reports, with James later saying his daughter fell off the bed and he shook her in an effort to revive her.
When police confronted him about Janiyah's injuries that might have been the result of sexual assault, her father suggested someone else broke into the motel room and hurt her, without him knowing.
Aisha had called multiple county agencies to warn them that Janiyah would be in danger under the care of her parents.
Child Protective Services, accompanied by police, had forced Aisha to hand over the baby to James and his girlfriend on April 18, despite her protests.
"I just wanted her safe," Aisha said. "I didn’t have to have custody of her. She just needed to be a in a safe environment, and the environment she was in was not a safe environment."
James is being held in lieu of $2 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court again for a probable cause hearing on April 26.