A Missouri mother has been charged with abandoning her infant daughter’s body, in a case that leaves open questions about how the 6-month-old girl died.
Raeleena S. Barlett, 25, is jailed at the Jackson County Jail in the death of Kha’liya Bridgewater.
The case came to light on May 13 when Kansas City cops responded to a report of an infant found dead in a 19-acre vacant lot, prosecutors said in a news release. The badly decomposed remains were identified as belonging to Kha’liya.
“The Jackson County Medical Examiner has ruled the cause and manner of the child’s death to be undetermined,” prosecutors said. “No signs of physical abuse of the child were determined from the investigation.”
Several witnesses, whose identities are redacted from documents, described seeing reports on the news about a baby’s body being found. The ex-wife and daughter of her grandfather, Marty Lammers, reportedly reached out with information that the body could have been hers.
“Our instincts when this came across the news that first night…our first reaction was to call KC Tips Hotline,” Lammers told KMBC in a June 1 report.
“All the pictures I’ve got of her, she’s always smiling,” Lammers said of his granddaughter, according to The Kansas City Star. “Got fingers tucked in her mouth like she just pulled herself out of a fish line. She was a very adorable baby, very lovable.”
Investigators determined Barlett did not report her daughter dead to authorities. She allegedly made no funeral arrangements.
Barlett allegedly told different stories to various witnesses about Kha’liya’s fate. She told one person over Facebook Message on May 7 about the baby dying on May 4, documents stated. She allegedly told another on May 7 about the baby taking a final breath on May 6.
A woman, identified only as Witness #2, said that Barlett came to her apartment on May 6 and told her that the baby died from sudden infant death syndrome while sleeping on May 4.
This woman told investigators about last seeing the baby on Easter — April 9, 2023.
Witness #7 described a trash smell in Barlett’s apartment whenever she visited, but on April 23, there was, in the words of court documents, an “unbearable smell.”
“She stated Barlett never told her that her baby had died,” police said.
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Kha’liya’s death and discovery happened after Barlett’s boyfriend allegedly discovered he was not the baby’s father, documents stated. He allegedly told Witness #6 on April 14 about getting the DNA from the baby’s hair tested.
Kansas City police determined that this man, Suspect #2, was not the father. They already had access to his DNA on file.
Witness #6 said that on April 11, she dropped by to check on the baby, discovered the baby had not been changed and that she saw worms in the diaper, documents stated.
“He [the current boyfriend) won’t let me touch her,” Barlett allegedly told Witness #6 on April 11.
Another person, Witness #1, said Barlett, crying, revealed to her and another person that the baby died. Barlett allegedly told this person about waking up to discover the baby dead and blue in the face.
But Barlett allegedly claimed cops and an ambulance responded and that she asked these pair of witnesses not to tell anybody about the death.
These two witnesses gave Barlett $500 because she asked for money to help pay for the cremation, documents stated.
When Barlett finally spoke to police, she told them post-Miranda that she only had two children, not the infant, according to documents. She allegedly later admitted, however, about having a third, now-dead child.
“During questioning, Barlett provided numerous versions of events for the night her [redacted] died and claimed to not know how she died,” authorities wrote.
According to the redacted documents, she told a story about her boyfriend telling her the baby was choking. Barlett allegedly claimed she checked on her daughter to find her cold to the touch and stiff, with gnats on and around her.
“She stated she attempted to call 911, but [redacted] broke her iPhone and would not allow her [to] leave the apartment,” authorities wrote. “She advised she woke up sometime later and her deceased infant [redacted] was no longer in bed with her, and she observed [redacted] buckle the deceased infant into her car seat and leave the apartment. She advised [redacted] told her he was going to Arkansas, but to tell people he took [redacted] to Texas.”
She did not call 911 when he left because her power was out, her Wi-Fi wasn’t working, and her phone died, she allegedly said.
Barlett continued changing her story, according to documents. For example, on Aug. 4, she gave investigators a different version of what she was going through before finding Kha’liya dead.
Documents said Barlett “stated the plan was for [redacted] to take [redacted] to Texas so his mother could pay for a funeral and insisted she did not know how [redacted] ended up abandoned in a field.”
Authorities said they arrested Suspect #2 on an unrelated warrant on May 25. Post-Miranda, he initially claimed to know nothing about the baby and that though he heard reports on the news about the discovery, he knew nothing about it.
When confronted about his name coming up in the investigation and that he was believed to have information, he asked to speak to his attorney.
That briefly ended the interview, but Suspect #2 allegedly picked up questioning again, waived his right to a lawyer, and admitted “he knew Barlett and [redacted] who he referred to as [redacted].”
According to documents, he claimed he last saw the baby approximately two and a half to three weeks before Mother’s Day on May 14 of this year.
The boyfriend said that several days before May 15, Barlett told him over the app TextNow that the baby died from SIDS, and she later told him she called police and ambulance, according to documents.
He said he did not think Barlett did anything intentionally to hurt or kill the baby but believed Kha’liya may have died due to neglect: The child was malnourished and getting smaller as she aged.
Barlett allegedly did not take the baby to government program appointments for vitamins and supplements to help the child grow.
He said he knew Barlett was not a good mother and that she would neglect her children.
The boyfriend allegedly said there was nothing he could do because, though the baby had his last name, he was not on the birth certificate.
He at first denied knowing about the baby being found in the woods, but later said one night, Barlett woke up crying and told him she put the child in a big brown bag after finding her dead, documents stated. She allegedly told him she took the baby somewhere, though she did not say the location.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office did not announce charges against her boyfriend. Authorities only described in redacted court documents as “Suspect #2.” He allegedly stonewalled investigators before admitting he knew about Kha’liya’s death and her mother neglecting her.
The investigation continues.
Lammers voiced surprise at the lack of charges against Barlett’s boyfriend, according to The Kansas City Star. He said he tells Barlett she will have to accept whatever punishment she gets if convicted.
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