Crestview, FL – A three-year-old girl is dead, found dumped in the woods, after her mother’s boyfriend kicked her in the head and fractured her skull.
After he kicked her, police said Cory Hagwell put the toddler’s body in a closet, where she was later found dead by her mother.
Hagwell and the toddler’s mother, Destinee Merrell, called police to her home early on Friday afternoon to report the little girl missing, WTVY reported.
Hagwell and Merrell told police that Merrell’s daughter, Adelynn, disappeared while she was playing in the yard.
Merrell appeared “calm and unemotional” while authorities searched for her child, police said.
“An intense search was conducted, but 23-year old Destinee Merrell then told investigators her boyfriend, 29-year old Cory Hagwell, had kicked the little girl in the head and locked her in a closet in the master bedroom Thursday night because she had gotten out of her car seat," Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley told WTVY.
Investigators recovered Adelynn’s body in a wooded area at about 4:30 pm on Friday.
Authorities said Merrell and Hagwell gave conflicting accounts regarding what happened to Adelynn, but noted that another child in the home said he saw Hagwell kick Adelynn while she was playing.
The child told officers he heard Merrell say, “Stop, Cory.”
Investigators said the child told them he last saw Adelynn lying on the floor of a bedroom closet, but that she wasn’t talking. He said he did not see or hear the little girl again.
In an interview with investigators at the Okaloosa County Jail, Merrell said Adelynn started crying around 6:30 am on Friday.
Hagwell got up and started yelling at the child, Merrell told authorities.
She said she heard a loud thump and two doors closing, but she didn't check on her daughter until around 11:30 am, when she opened a closet door and found Adelynn dead, police said.
Merrell admitted to investigators that she and Hagwell concocted a story about Adalynn being kidnapped, and waited for an hour before calling police.
Authorities found another child in Merrell’s care and took him for a medical examination, WTVY said.
A doctor found that the five-year-old boy weighed “less than 33 pounds, with bones in all regions of his body exposed,” a sheriff’s office report said, according to WTVY.
Merrell previously left Adelynn and another child alone on Sep 1, investigators said. The children were locked in a room, broke out a window, and were found by neighbors.
According to the sheriff’s office, the investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected, the West Palm Beach Post said.
Merrell was arrested on three counts of child neglect without great bodily harm, and one count of aggravated child battery.
Hagwell was arrested on one count of aggravated child abuse.
The couple is being held in the Okaloosa County Jail.