CLEVELAND – Police body camera video is revealing the crime scene where a Cleveland five-year-old was beaten to death as hours of recorded interrogations show how the women responsible changed their account of what happened.
Tequila Crump and Ursula Owens declined to speak during their sentencing hearing last week, but the video obtained by FOX 8 News provides insight into their attempts to cover up what happened to Ta’Naejah McCloud.
As the girl lie dying in a hospital room in March of 2017, her mother – Crump – and Crump’s partner – Owens -- told a police officer her condition was due to a seizure Ta’Naejah suffered about 11 hours before they first called 911. Doctors suspected abuse.
“She started spitting up foam and we called the ambulance, because after 5 or 6 hours, she wasn't waking up,” Owens told a Cleveland police sergeant whose body camera was recording the interview.
She said that Ta’Naejah had been playing normally on the morning of March 17 when she and Crump heard a thud and found the girl seizing on a bedroom floor inside their Byrant Avenue home.
“She got up and she played like normal and did everything else like normal, so I'm not understanding what's going on,” Crump told a police officer at the hospital.
The girl's head injuries were caused by blunt force trauma, investigators discovered.
A judge sentenced Crump to 13 years in prison after a jury convicted her on charges including reckless homicide and endangering children. Owens was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, a harsher sentence as she was additionally convicted on murder and felonious assault charges.
As investigators questioned the women at the hospital after Ta’Naejah was brought in, police checked the home, finding that the girl’s bedroom that had no bed and unopened toys stashed in an attic stairwell.
When police confronted the women during more than five hours of separate interrogations, the women changed their story of what happened, ultimately admitting they beat the little girl because Ta'Naejah moved a fan into her bedroom.
“I'm whooping, I'm whooping, I'm whooping and she’s just screaming,” Owens described.
More than 1.5 hours into her second interrogation, Crump revealed her daughter’s injuries may have come from her being pushed.
“What did you do that… caused this to happen?” a detective asked.
“Pushed her… to get her away from me because I didn't want to spaz out,” Crump said.
A jury ultimately determined Owens was most at fault for the deadly injuries, in part because of testimony from her 16-year-old son who said he witnessed the beating and testified against his mother.
Prosecutors said injuries to Ta’Naejah’s body revealed a history of abuse.
“I'm sorry for the baby because nothing was meant to happen to her. We just didn’t want her to get electrocuted and she ended up dead anyway just because we tried to discipline her,” a tearful Owens told detectives during one interrogation.
“I don't want to go to jail,” she said. “I can't die in this kind of place.”