FESTUS, MO – A mother is in jail, and police are searching for her boyfriend after the beating death of a seventeen month old toddler in Festus. A three-year-old was also injured in the attack.
Police say they aren’t certain what happened yet, but they know one thing: the beating taken by seventeen month old Layla Fast is the worst case of child abuse officers here have ever seen.
“It’s anger. It’s sadness. It’s empathy,” Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis said. “ Anybody that’s a parent. What got me is when I first saw this child, she looked like one of my great nieces. Just a small innocent child maybe 25 pounds. Just a little one year old girl should not have experienced what this child experienced. Her last few seconds of life were a pure hell.”
The child’s mother, Taylor Fast is in jail. The 21-year-old is facing child endangerment charges for the moment, though police say that could change quickly depending on what they find out from the autopsy and her boyfriend.
The boyfriend, who officers would not name, is described as a person of interest, not a suspect. That status, police say, is also subject to change. They’ve been actively searching for the man for more than twenty-four hours.
“We want to know the truth,” Lewis said, “not some doctored story or some excuse story. We want to know the truth of what happened to this child because someone has to speak for the victim. She can’t speak for herself anymore.”
Relatives of the child came in and out of the Festus police department Monday afternoon, but they say there were few answers as to what had occurred.
Police say it began when the received a call Sunday morning from Taylor Fast. She told them her daughter had been bitten by a spider and was unconscious. When police arrived, they say they quickly knew the story was bogus.
“I’ve been a policeman for 32 years and this is the worst case of child abuse I have ever seen,” Lewis said. “Nothing even comes close to this. This child looked like a situation, say if a child was involved in a car accident. It was horrible.”
The little girl’s grandfather, a former firefighter, said that description was hard to hear. Speaking on behalf of the child’s biological father, David Dunn, Sr. said the entire family is stunned.
“We just want the truth of what really happened to our granddaughter. Would have never expected this from the mom or whatever. I don’t know what to say.”
He said his memories of Layla will be her beauty and her smile.
But he also has the girl’s big brother to think about. The three-year-old boy suffered a broken leg. Police say he broke into tears every time he tried to stand on it. Dunn says he was given the impression the boy is fortunate to have survived the attack that killed his sister.
If you to help the family with burial cost, a gofundme account has been established: Layla Fast “Evans” Funeral Cost.