Grandmother says she tried to get custody of murdered toddler

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - Just days away from her second birthday, a toddle is found dead in her home. Her mother and step-mother have been charged and her paternal grandmother claims she tried to get custody of the child.

Police arrested Deonte and Shanika Evan, both 23, on Tuesday after the coroner determined that Jabria Phillips had died due to blunt force trauma.

Deonte, the step-father, is charged with Second Degree Murder and Child Abuse.  Jabria's mother, Shanika, is charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child.


Medics found 23-month-old Jabria in an apartment near Dr. Martin Luther King and Goodfellow in north St. Louis early Tuesday morning.  She had no pulse. Doctors later pronounced her dead.

Police say Deonte hit the child repeatedly. Shanika's mother, Shelia Elam, says her daughter has been falsely accused.

"Whatever happened, believe me it was an accident and my daughter wouldn't harm her child. She wouldn't murder her child," Elam said.

Brenda Baker, the Jabria's paternal grandmother who lives in Detroit says she's been trying to get custody of the little girl for weeks.

"I went to the police station and asked them to go with me to go get my granddaughter, and I showed them my paperwork.  It was on a Sunday.  But they told me that anybody can make that paper up," Baker said.

St. Louis police are looking into Brenda's claim that she was turned away.

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Mother, Step-father charged in toddler's death