On September 19 a mother called 911 to report that her 8-year-old daughter was unresponsive after falling and hitting her head.
When officers arrived at the residence, they found Marlai unconscious with bruises and lacerations over her body. She was transported to Banner Desert Hospital where she was diagnosed as suffering from a brain bleed. She succumbed to her injuries three days later.
Court documents indicate that the mother, 28-year-old Chaimara Washington told investigators “multiple stories” about how her daughter had become injured. She eventually told police that she "would use a leather belt to discipline the children when they would not listen or disobey her," and that she admitted to “using the belt to strike her 8-year-old multiple times over the past three days, causing numerous bruises.”
The lacerations that Marlai had on her arm were evidently caused by Washington striking her with a broken broom handle.
Additional forms of discipline that were admittedly employed were forcing the children to “exercise for extended periods... running and jumping over an exercise bag or holding a large book in the corner.”
The morning Marlai collapsed, Washington is said to have made her jump over a "medical book" in the living room. She alleged that the girl had evidently fallen and as she was getting up, hit her head on a door handle, then the wall, and fell back.
Washington reported that she had attempted to give her daughter CPR before taking her to a bathtub in an attempt to "try to wake her up with water.”
After placing a call to 911, Washington is reported to have told her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brandon Cooper to remove the other children from the house. He took a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy to their grandmother's house.
According to investigators, Cooper did not discipline Marlai, but admitted to disciplining the 4-year-old boy by "slapping his hand if he was not behaving correctly."
KSAZ reports though, that Cooper was accused during interviews with the children of throwing glass cups at Marlai. Additionally, the 4-year-old confirmed that he had been struck by Cooper.
Washington and Cooper have both been charged with two counts of felony child abuse with intent to cause injury. They made their initial appearance in court on September 22, and are scheduled to be back in court on October 8 for a status hearing.
It is not clear if additional or upgraded charges will be filed by the state.