The mother of an infant whose decomposing body was found in a wooded Kansas City area in May has been charged for her alleged role in the baby’s death and abandonment.
Raeleena Barlett was charged with allegedly abandoning the corpse of her daughter Kha’liya Bridgewater, a class E felony, in a vacant 19-acre lot on Pittman Road, according to a Monday news release from the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Marty Lammers, Barlett’s father and Kha’liya’s grandfather, said he was surprised to learn about the charge.
He told The Star that his daughter has been in a Jackson County jail since Wednesday. She told him she was being held on a child neglect charge. Still, Lammers said he couldn’t get answers from police, prosecutors or from a Missouri Courts website, even though he’s listed as the family contact in the case.
Lammers said he’s been working with the state to get his daughter counseling and psychiatric services.
At one point, he said several people attacked Barlett near her apartment and called her a “baby killer.” Over the weekend, he said she was put on suicide watch in jail.
“She’s a wreck right now,” Lammers said.
Lammers was also surprised that Barlett’s boyfriend, who family members believe was helping to raise the baby, hasn’t been charged.
While he hopes to help his daughter, Lammers said he also tells her that, if she’s found guilty, she’ll need to accept whatever punishment the legal system hands down.
“Do a crime, you pay the time,” he said. “I don’t care who you are. It’s a simple fact. I’ve talked to her about that for a while now.”
The week before police found his granddaughter’s body, Lammers and his family were told that Kha’liya had died in her sleep. But Barlett, his oldest daughter, wouldn’t answer any questions about funeral arrangements or other matters.
Lammers’ ex-wife and daughter reached out to the TIPS Hotline with information that Kha’liya may have been the dead infant police found in a 19-acre vacant lot near the intersection of East 41st Street and Pittman Road, Lammers said.
Police said they found Kha’liya’s body in an advanced state of decomposition, with two trash bags under and around her legs and a baby blanket and yellow headband nearby.
After police found the body, Barlett told Lammers she needed to pick up Kha’liya’s ashes and death certificate.
Barlett told one witness that she found the baby “blue in the face” and called police and emergency medical services. She allegedly told others that Kha’liya had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Barlett told conflicting stories of the baby’s death to various witnesses and police, according to a probable cause statement.
Police later identified the victim in the woods as Kha’liya. Detectives also confirmed there were no reports to medical examiners of a 6-month-old dying in the metro area.
The Jackson County Medical Examiner’s Office said Kha’liya’s cause and manner of death are undetermined.
Lammers and other family members believe Barlett’s boyfriend, who they thought was Kha’liya’s father, may have been involved in her death. A DNA test through the Kansas City crime lab showed they were not related, according to court documents.
Through his daughter’s friends, Lammers heard that his daughter’s boyfriend beat her with extension cords and other items. His daughter never told him about the alleged abuse herself.
When Barlett and her boyfriend spoke to investigators, they told conflicting stories of what happened to the girl.
Barlett told police she found her boyfriend holding the choking infant against his chest while he had a sucking syringe in his hand. She told police he didn’t allow her to come in the room and later said the baby had gone to sleep.
Later on, Barlett said she checked on Kha’liya and found her lying on her back, arms folded against her chest with her eyes open. Barlett told police she was cold and had gnats on and around her body. Barlett said she tried to call police, but the boyfriend broke her phone and wouldn’t let her leave the apartment.
The next morning, she said the boyfriend buckled the dead infant into a car seat and said he was going to Arkansas.
While executing a search warrant at Barlett’s apartment, investigators found a stripped car seat near the front door, a roll of white trash bags and a syringe with a hooked tip that contained an unknown substance in the tip.
When he spoke to police, the man said he hadn’t seen Kha’liya for two weeks prior to Mother’s Day. He said the baby was malnourished and got smaller as she got older. He called Barlett a bad mother and said she failed to go to appointments to get the baby the vitamins and supplements she’d need to grow.
Potential punishment for the felony charge could range between one and seven years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
‘A happy baby’
In December, Lammers said he had traveled to Kansas City to meet Kha’liya, who was about one month old at the time, and see his other kids and grandchildren.
He held the baby and told her that he loved her. She was “precious,” he said, and “a happy baby.”
“All the pictures I’ve got of her, she’s always smiling,” Lammers said. “Got fingers tucked in her mouth like she just pulled herself out of a fish line. She was a very adorable baby, very lovable.”
A GoFundMe raised nearly $4,300 for Kha’liya’s funeral, which was held in July. Since her life was cut so short, Lammers said he wanted to give her the nicest service possible.
“She was disrespected by being put in the woods,” Lammers said. “As her grandfather, I owe it to her to give her the respect and the utmost most amazing service that she deserves.”