FORNEY, Texas - Kaufman County Sheriff's deputies arrested a foster mother in connection with the death of a 5-month-old girl in her care.
Natalie Parker, 35, surrendered to authorities on Monday. She’s charged with abandoning or endangering a child, injury to a child and tampering with a witness.
Deputies went to Parker's home in Forney on Dec. 29 after getting a 911 call about an unresponsive infant. The baby girl was pronounced dead at the scene.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed that the baby was a foster child. The four other foster children living in the home have since been moved to other homes.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Parker told investigators with the Texas Rangers that she put the baby in her crib on the night of Dec. 28 and found her face down on a couch the next morning.
Parker claimed the baby’s biological brother had been scolded in the past for taking her out of her crib. She continued to implicate the baby’s brother and told investigators the only time she left the house that night was to briefly move her vehicle, the court document states.
But when investigators questioned Parker’s 19-year-old son, he told a different story. According to the affidavit, Christian Richmond said Parker was not home on the night of Dec. 28.
Richmond said another person in the house brought the baby to him in the middle of the night while he was playing video games. He fed her and walked around with her to try to get her to go back to sleep. He ended up falling asleep with her on his chest facing up. When he woke up in the morning, he realized she was purple and not breathing, the affidavit states.
Richmond told investigators Parker encouraged everyone in the house to tell the deputies that the baby’s biological brother was the last person to have her, the affidavit continues.
Parker is charged with abandoning or endangering a child because she was the only person in the house who was authorized to care for the foster child. Cellphone records and surveillance video suggest she was not home all night as she claimed.
She was charged with injury to a child because, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, she knowingly placed the baby in danger by leaving her with unauthorized supervision. And she tampered with a witness when she coerced Richmond to lie about what happened, the court document states.
Richmond was also arrested last week for possession of child pornography. Investigators said he admitted to having child porn on his phone while deputies were collecting evidence and looking through cellphone records. They do not believe the images are related to the baby’s death.
The infant’s exact cause of death is still unknown. Her autopsy is pending.
According to DFPS, Parker was licensed by the Kingdom Kids Child Placing Agency and was the only person authorized to care for the five children in her home. The agency declined to release any information about her background. But according to the requirements on their website, foster parents cannot have any criminal history of abusing children, their homes must pass safety inspections, and they must not use any physical discipline.
DFPS said its investigation is still active.