The step-father of a 14-month-old girl who died after reportedly being abused has been arrested for a second time, and charged with first degree child abuse and felony murder.
Wayne Brown, 29, appeared before a judge on Friday, Feb. 24 for arraignment. According to jail records, Brown is charged with first degree child abuse and causing the death of Laylah Heether, Brown's step-daughter. Both charges carry possible life sentences.
According to a Facebook page called "Justice for Laylah," she died on Feb. 21 at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids. Court records show Laylah had significant injuries to her head, face and genital area. There were also signs of sexual abuse.
Police believe that the injuries to Laylah occurred at the Big Prairie Township home that Brown and her mother shared. Court records indicate that Laylah was still trying to recover from previous injuries.
Brown had previously been arrested on Feb. 14, when the abuse allegedly happened, for domestic abuse against Laylah's mother. When Brown was arrested, he told detectives that Laylah had fallen off the couch. She was taken to the hospital that day.
Brown did not face charges related to the abuse of the child at that point, instead he posted bond.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, Brown was arrested on new charges. He is being charged as a habitual offender because of previous felony convictions -- a home invasion and a false reporting of felony. His court-appointed attorney did make a request for bond on the felony charges he faces now.
Newaygo County Prosecutor Robert Springstead contested, stating that Brown has had thoughts of suicide and that being held on bond would be "another aggravating factor." The judge denied pre-trial bond.
Troy Hitts, friend of Laylah's father, says he "hopes [Brown] gets the full penalty."
Hitts is a good friend of Laylah's father and says that everyone who knew Laylah is hurting.
"With the horrible event surrounding her death, it's hard for the entire family," Hitts says. "She was always smiling, very loved, they want everybody to know they loved their daughter."
Brown's attorney request for extra time for the judge to review evidence related to the case. The judge agreed and set Brown's preliminary hearing for April 19 -- he will be held in the Newaygo County Jail until then.
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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13.