Horrific treatment alleged in girl’s death

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Disturbing details emerged in testimony Friday surrounding the couple accused of the torture and death of a 4-year-old Sumpter Township girl.

Gabby Barrett was beaten and forced to sleep on a plastic garbage bag in a freezing mobile home in Sumpter Township in the last months of her life, a township investigator testified during the preliminary examination for Brad Fields, the boyfriend of the girl’s mother.

Brad Fields, with attorney Timothy Wrather, was bound over for trial in the death of Gabby Barrett after a hearing Friday in a Romulus court.

Testimony also centered on a series of Facebook Messenger communications between Fields and Gabby’s mother, Candice Rena Diaz, where the two allegedly discussed how to punish Gabby for wetting herself. Both are in their mid-20s.

During the hearing in 34th District Court in Romulus for Fields, the father of the girl’s younger sibling, Sgt. Elizabeth Egerer testified that messages between Fields and Diaz through Facebook Messenger detailed how the couple abused the girl because of their “frustration” with her wetting herself.

Some of the alleged abuse detailed in the messages included cold baths, being hit in the mouth and sleeping on the cold floor of the mobile home wearing nothing but underwear.

In one of the messages, Fields allegedly told Diaz that he had “smacked (the child) in the face twice” for urinating on herself.

Sgt. Elizabeth Egerer testified that Facebook Messenger exchanges between Brad Fields and Gabby’s mother, Candice Rena Diaz, detailed how the couple mentally and physically abused the girl because of their “frustration” with her wetting herself.

In another, Fields allegedly wrote to Diaz that “it’s going to hurt her real bad if she doesn’t (expletive) stop” urinating on herself or defecating on the floor.

Fields allegedly said he would urinate on the child but his attorney said the message was “left up to interpretation.”

Gabby died on New Year’s Day. Police were called to the girl’s home and found her unresponsive on the bathroom floor in the Rawsonville Woods mobile home park. Her mother told police that she found Gabby submerged in the bathtub after she left her there to make pancakes.

A police officer testified Friday that he didn’t find much water in the tub but he found body tissue in the drain.

Investigators say the girl was scalded and had traumatic injuries.

The death has been ruled a homicide by the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Gabby went from behaving as a typical child to an abused girl when she went to live with her mother and Fields, prosecutors said.

“She’s getting beaten, she’s getting tortured,” and the parents act as though it’s a funny game (through their Facebook messages),” said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Melissa Palepu. “Gabby Barrett is dead because of child abuse.”

“Her death is not from one blow,” she said. “Her death is from her body breaking down from all of the injuries.”

Palepu said both Diaz and Fields mentally and physically the child.

“Brad Fields beat and tortured this child until she succumbed to her injuries,” she said.

Cynthia Diaz, Gabby Barrett’s grandmother, wipes tears during Friday’s hearing. Gabby, 4, died on New Year’s Day. Police found her on the bathroom floor of her home in a Sumpter Township mobile home park.

The autopsy report lays out the injuries: asphyxiation; burns on her feet and arms and other injuries; lacerations; contusions on her left cheek.

Her hair was matted and filled with lice.

She also suffered from medical and dental neglect, which contributed to her death, the autopsy found.

Fields’ attorney said his client was not responsible for the torture. “There is no evidence or testimony Brad Fields was involved in torturing Gabby Barrett in any way to support a torture charge,” said Timothy Wrather.

Wrather asked the judge for a mental assessment for his client, who claims to have mental issues.

After hearing the testimony, Judge Brian Oakley bound Fields over for trial. Fields is due in Wayne Circuit Court in Detroit at 9 a.m. Monday.

Diaz, who also said she is mentally ill, also is due back in court next week for results of a mental competency examination.


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