Mother arrested on suspicion of murder after 3-year-old daughter found dead at riverside county home
(KTLA) A mother has been arrested and booked on suspicion of murder after her three-year-old daughter was found dead at a Riverside County home on Friday, authorities said.
The Sheriff's Department announced the arrest of 30-year-old Susan Rank more than 12 hours after her daughter was found dead.
Deputies were called to a residence in the 3400 block of Cannes Avenue in the community of Highgrove before 7 a.m., according to Deputy Mike Vasquez.
The residence is a sober living facility called Set Free Fellowship.
The child was already dead when officials arrived. Investigators did not immediately release the victim's cause of death, saying only that the body showed "obvious sign of a trauma," according to a news release from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
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Before the arrest, the girl's grandmother -- who identified the toddler as Zayla Rank -- said her daughter admitted to killing the child.
"As Susan came out the door in handcuffs – I said, ‘What did you do?’ And she just told me she killed her," an anguished and distraught Lori Wood told KTLA. "Pastor Bill grabbed me and held me back."
Wood said that Zayla was living with her mother at the sober living home and that the mother had been sober for over a year.
Susan Rank tried to get help at a local emergency treatment center recently because she was having bad thoughts, the family said. Though Rank was never violent toward her daughter, her family says Rank struggled with mental illness and was violent against herself.
Vasquez said five people were initially detained for questioning, including the mother. Rank was the only one arrested; she was booked at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, according to the sheriff's release.
"I cried for both of them because I knew I'd probably never see my daughter again either," a visibly distraught Wood said through tears.
Footage from the scene showed one home on the block was cordoned off with caution tape, and deputies were combing through the backyard, where a white tarp had been put up against a fence. Children's bikes could been seen on the back patio.
Neighbors said the toddler's body was found in the backyard.
Two women who live in the area, Debra Villalobos and Brandy Perez, told KTLA they never see children around the household involved.
“I don’t think ever have we seen, in that house, children," Perez said. "It’s very rarely we see adults out.”
Villalobos said she sometimes saw men and women congregated outside, but couldn't recall any children.
Highgrove is a small community located between Riverside and Grand Terrace. Although sheriff's officials originally said the home was on the 3000 block, it is actually located on the 3400 block of Cannes Avenue.
No further details were immediately available.
Zayla's great-aunt set up a GoFundMe to help the family with funeral expenses. The page says the death was "at the hands of (Zayla's) mentally ill daughter," and that leftover funds will go to "help those with mental illness."
The great-aunt, Tracylyn Sharrit, described Zayla as "beautiful" and "filled with light."
She told KTLA that she is struggling with Zayla's death and Rank's possible role.
“The mental illness was not addressed by the mental health professionals that she reached out to in her time of really big need. She reached out and said 'help me,'" Sharrit said in a phone interview. "The system didn’t protect the child. They knew she had one, they sent her home that way.”
KTLA's Meghan McMonigle contributed to this report.