Three adults that were charged with the care of a 3-year-old girl are now behind bars and facing charges related to her death earlier this month.
In the early afternoon hours of June 9th, emergency services were called to a residence in Oakmont, Pennsylvania for an unresponsive child.
They found Bella Rae Seachrist in an upstairs tub. She was not breathing.
Despite administering lifesaving measures, she was declared deceased at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, St. Margaret an hour later. At the time of her examination, doctors reported evidence of “extreme” sexual abuse and “extreme” malnutrition.
Yesterday police announced charges against Bella’s father, 29-year-old Jose Eduardo Salazar-Ortiz Sr.; the child’s step-mother, 27-year-old Laura Michelle Ramriez, and Ramirez' sister, 20-year-old Alexis Herrera.
Salazar-Ortiz Sr and Ramirez were both taken into custody yesterday and arraigned. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Herrera as her whereabouts where unknown. This morning she turned herself in.
All three have been charged with criminal homicide, criminal conspiracy and aggravated indecent assault of a child. Ramirez and Herrera face additional charges of unlawful restraint and false imprisonment.
According to Allegheny County detectives, Bella clearly suffered “prolonged physical and mental abuse” during her short life.
A neighbor, Lou Pappa, spoke with the Post-Gazette and said that he knew Salazar-Ortiz Sr well and never saw anything that would make him suspect that there was abuse in the home. “They could have lived in that house for another five years and I still would have never expected anything like this.”
The result of an affair that Salazar-Ortiz Sr had, he was awarded sole custody of Bella in August 2017 over substance abuse concerns with the biological mother.
A friend of the mother, Arika Simmers, told KDKA that "She thought she couldn’t provide the life that Bella deserved so she gave Jose the baby. And Jose was supposed to take care of her and he didn’t.”
Salazar-Ortiz Sr is said to have blamed the women for the abuse that Bella suffered though he admitted to investigators that he was aware of it.
An article published by the Post-Gazette gives details of some of what Bella endured but due to the potentially triggering nature of that material we will include it here. If you wish to read further details you can find their article here.
Salazar-Ortiz Sr and Ramirez have three sons together. Whether they are with Child Protective Services or other family was not mentioned in any reports.