Marion County sheriff’s deputies on Friday arrested a Belleview man in connection with the death of a toddler in March.
Jesus Mata, 24, was taken into custody at the office of his attorney, Christopher Dunham. Mata was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Dressed in blue jeans and a blue T-shirt, Mata was accompanied by a sheriff’s deputy into the Marion County Jail.
Ayanna Ross, who was just over a year old, died at Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville from injuries she received while under Mata’s care, according to sheriff’s officials.
“I’m so glad that justice is finally done,” said Debra Dobs, Ayanna’s grandmother. “It’s going to give her some piece of mind,” she said, referring to her daughter, Kimberly Rogers, the child’s mother.
Rogers has been incarcerated at the jail since Aug. 3, 2011, charged with retail theft. She is slated to be released this summer.
At the time of her arrest, Rogers had her two children, Ayanna and her brother Jayden, with her. Rogers’ boyfriend, the father of the children, also was with them and he also was taken into custody.
With the couple’s arrest, Ayanna and Jayden were placed in a foster home and Kids Central Inc., a social service agency, was handling the case.
In late January, at the request of Rogers, the siblings were removed from a foster home and placed with Shawna Parker, a friend Rogers had met when they were both involved with the Department of ChilOn Feb. 29, deputies received a call that Ayanna was at Munroe Regional Medical Center with severe head injuries and that the incident had occurred at a residence in Summerfield. They were told the girl’s brother had hit her in the head with a motorcycle helmet.
Ayanna was later transferred to Shands, where she remained in grave condition until her parents decided to take her off life support on March 2.
Following his sister’s death, Jayden was returned to the foster care system.
Sheriff’s Detective Miriam Diaz went to MRMC and interviewed Parker. She said she arrived home around 6 p.m. on Feb. 29 and that her boyfriend, Mata, told her he was ready to go home.
Parker said Mata put Ayanna in a car seat and walked ahead of her. She said she heard Mata scream and when she looked inside the vehicle, Ayanna was limp.
Parker said she removed the child from the car seat and that Ayanna was lifeless and her eyes were rolling into the back of her head. She called 911.
Mata told the detective he was with the siblings all day and was taking care of them. He said when they were leaving the home, he picked up Ayanna and put her in the car seat. Mata said he was walking to his vehicle when he heard the toddler make a noise and saw drool. He said the little girl was vomiting.
Mata said he shouted at Parker and told her Ayanna was having a seizure, according to reports.
While waiting for an ambulance, he said, the girl was unresponsive and one of her eyes was rolling in the back of her head. He said she was crying. He did not see any blood.
Diaz re-interviewed Mata the following day. Her report notes that he said that after hearing Ayanna cry for a period of time, he tried giving her a bottle but she didn’t want it. He said he picked her up, went to the bedroom and tried putting her to sleep, but the little girl pushed him away.dren and Families.
“I threw her,” he said. “That’s when I like started playing with her and I threw her up and I kinda threw her a little too far.”
He said when he caught Ayanna, she must have hit her head on the box spring or the wooden portion of the bed frame. He said she was crying and he put her to sleep.
He said he later returned to the room and when he picked her up, she jolted. He said he rocked her back to sleep and when he placed her in the car seat, he placed the seat back because he did not want to wake her.
Mata said he did not call 911 when the girl hit her head because he thought she was fine, even though she was crying loudly. He also said he was “pretty sure” she did not have a bruise on her head until she hit the wood.
During the interview, he told Diaz he missed catching Ayanna after tossing her in the air. He said she appeared to be unresponsive, then he shook her repeatedly until “she became more coherent,” the report noted.
He said he put her to bed and didn’t seek medical help.
An autopsy was conducted and the cause of death for the girl was listed as blunt force trauma to the head.
On May 7, Detective Frank Scala met with the chief medical examiner, who said the child’s injuries were inconsistent with what Mata told law enforcement. The official said there was a substantial amount of force used and the symptoms suffered by the child would have been immediate.
As Mata was being escorted into the jail, he did not respond when asked questions by a Star-Banner reporter.
A woman who answered the phone at Dunham’s office late Friday said he was with a client and took a message. As of 6 p.m., he had not returned a message seeking comment.