Lafayette toddler’s death ruled a homicide

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Lafayette police are investigating the death of a little girl after it was ruled a homicide.

On July 21, Michael Yocum got a call about his granddaughter, the kind of call no one ever wants to hear.

“They said they were Life-lining her to Riley,” Yocum said. “That they had found her unconscious and not breathing.”

Yocum said the following day 14-month-old Skylar Foster, of Lafayette, died.

“Immediately, you get angry,” Yocum said. “You want to vindicate that death. You want to bring justice for that death. Then you get flooded with the emotion of you just lost your 14-month-old grand baby.”

However, it’s how Skylar died that Yocum said is so concerning. An autopsy by the Marion County Coroner’s Office confirmed Skylar died from blunt force trauma to the head. Yocum believes it was a case of child abuse.

“The doctors were concerned with some of the bruising that they had found under her diaper,” Yocum said. “There was marks on there from other things than hands or falling.”

Police are concerned too.

“There were several bruises that were suspicious and the doctors at Riley did classify them as symptoms or signs of abuse,” Lafayette Police Sgt. Brian Gossard said.

Yocum said Skylar lived in Lafayette with her mother and her mother’s new boyfriend who stayed with them often. He said a few months ago a neighbor reported possible abuse. Gossard said police responded to the call, checked out the children and did not suspect any abuse.

Gossard said another disturbing detail has come out in the investigation. He said the family told investigators that Skylar stopped breathing for a short period just days before her death. Gossard said that incident was never reported.

“We’re not ruling anything out as far as accidental versus intentional. But it does, at this point, look like an abuse case,” Gossard said.

Yocum said the boyfriend was the only adult home at the time she went unconscious, but Gossard said with little evidence investigators want to talk to everyone who was in contact with Skylar in the final days before her death.

“She was full of love. That’s a lot to say about a child that comes into the world with a lot of love to give,” Gossard said. “I can’t imagine what a gift she would have been to all of those around her as she grew up.”

Since the day Yocum got that call about Skyler, he has been trying to spread the message — if you see something, say something.

“They don’t have a very big voice,” Yocum said. “They’re scared. They’re not going to tell a person they hit me or that person did something to me. They need help. Get that child’s voice heard before it’s snuffed out and that child can’t talk anymore.”

Skylar’s funeral was Monday. Instead of flowers, her family asked people to send stuffed animals they could then donate to several organizations that give aid to children. Yocum said the support from the community has been overwhelming with more than 4,000 stuffed animals donated in Skylar’s name.

Gossard said the investigation is still ongoing. If you have any information about this case you are asked to call the Lafayette Police Department at 765-807-1200 or the WeTip Hotline at 800-78-CRIME.

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