Candice Renea Diaz, 25, has been bound over to Wayne County Circuit Court on charges surrounding the torture and murder of her four-year-old daughter Gabrielle “Gabby” Barrett on New Year’s Day in Sumpter Township.
Chief 34th District Court Judge Tina Brooks Green held a three-hour preliminary exam on the charges against Diaz on Sept. 4 and then ruled the evidence showed probable cause that the crimes were committed and Diaz likely committed them.
Diaz was bound over to circuit court for a 9 a.m., Sept. 11, arraignment on the information on six felony charges.
• Homicide – felony murder, first degree
• Homicide – murder, second degree
• Child abuse – first degree
• Child abuse – first degree (conspiracy)
• Child abuse – second degree (conspiracy)
If she is found guilty of the charges she could spend the rest of her life in prison.
Judge Green said that there had been a request for pretrial services to review the bond for Diaz. She has been held without bond since Jan. 18 when she was brought back from Georgia where she and her co-defendant, Brad Fields, had fled after Gabrielle’s death was ruled a homicide.
Judge Green reported that pretrial services said the remand is appropriate and Diaz should remain in custody without bond.
Diaz’s preliminary exam was delayed by a request on Jan. 31 for a competency exam. After she was declared competent to stand trial, her court-appointed attorney David Cripps, asked for another exam by a psychiatrist chosen by the defense. That second exam also declared her competent.
She is due before Circuit Court Judge Vonda R. Evans on Sept. 11.
Co-defendant Brad Edward Fields, 29, had his six-hour preliminary exam before 34th District Court Judge Brian A. Oakley on May 11, after he was found competent to stand trial. His retained attorney is Timothy Jon Wrather. Fields also remains in custody without bond.
He is scheduled for a jury trial before Judge Evans, also on Sept. 11. The charges against him are the same as those against Diaz, except for the two conspiracy charges against her added by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on Sept. 4.
Wayne County assistant prosecutors questioned four witnesses during the preliminary exam, with the first being Diaz’ mother, Cynthia Diaz, who had raised Gabrielle, since she was a few weeks old and the girl’s father left, to last September when Gabrielle began preschool and had to be in her mother’s care.
The grandmother told of the morning that Gabrielle died. She testified that her daughter called her at about 9:30 or 9:45, crying, saying Gabrielle wasn’t responding and the grandmother said she was on the way. She said she lived in Westland and it took her 30 minutes to get to Rawsonville Woods mobile home park. When she got there she told Diaz to call 911 and her daughter told her she had tried twice, but sometimes the cell service is bad. She tried twice more and finally got through, the grandmother said.
The grandmother said when she got to the mobile home Fields was doing CPR, but he said this was the first time he did it. The grandmother, who had been trained, took over the CPR, but testified Gabrielle didn’t respond to her. She said police arrived about 10 minutes later and then the Huron Valley Ambulance about five to 10 minutes after that.
She said Diaz rode in the passenger seat in the ambulance to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital where the grandmother drove to join her. She said about two and a half hours later the doctor came out and said the little girl had been pronounced dead.
The grandmother testified Diaz didn’t say what happened to Gabrielle and she didn’t ask.
“I know it makes me look bad,” she said. There were red marks, superficial burns on the legs, but she didn’t ask her daughter how the girl got the burns.
“When you’re emotional, you don’t think of things,” the grandmother said. After Gabrielle was pronounced dead, “Candice left with Brad and Aunt Zoe and I went home alone.” She said she later took them to the trailer to get their car and things.
She said she didn’t know that Diaz and Fields had gone out of state until she saw it on the news. She had talked to Diaz on the phone many times, but hadn’t been told she was out of state.
Diaz’s mother said at age 4 1/2, Diaz was badly burned after her grandmother fell asleep with a cigarette. Diaz was burned over 46% of her body and after many months of treatment, “Candice was brought home from the hospital by me.”
Testimony later showed that Diaz said she knew how to treat burns from her time in the hospital.
The grandmother said she felt Gabrielle had autism and should be tested.
On Jan. 1, Fields reportedly said he couldn’t stand the girl’s screaming and so Diaz held Gabrielle tighter and tighter until she accidentally suffocated her.
The grandmother told Sumpter Detective-Sergeant John Toth that he was looking in the wrong direction because he’s looking at Diaz and, “She didn’t do anything wrong … She covered for Brad when he got arrested for guns … I don’t like Brad.”
Eleven pages of the medical examiner’s report from the University of Michigan Hospital was entered into evidence without reading it aloud by agreement between the defense and prosecution.
Sumpter Township Police Officer George Salajan was the next witness. He said he was dispatched to the scene of a drowning with Officer Jerry Cox and Cox entered the mobile home first.
Officer Salajan said when he saw the little girl her eyes were glassed over and her skin was pale gray. The two officers moved the little girl out of the bathroom floor into the living room where there was more access for CPR. He said she had no pulse and no breathing. He described bruising on her face, matted hair, vomit in her hair and nose, and scald marks. When they turned her to her side to try to clear her throat, he said he saw more bruising on her back, matching bruises on her arms and legs, “bright red in color … her feet were bright red, the color of blood.” He said it was obvious there were scald marks on the back.
When HVA arrived, a fire fighter carried Gabrielle out to the ambulance.
Officer Salajan said he tried to get permission from Diaz to search the trailer, but she refused and told him she didn’t know why police would want to search the house “when she drowned.”
As Officer Salajan was talking to Diaz as she sat in the front seat of the ambulance, HVA workers asked Diaz how Gabrielle got burns on her and Diaz replied that she got it in a hot bathtub the day before.
Officer Salajan testified police secured the house, got a search warrant, and then searched the house. He said that pieces of dead skin had been hanging from a scald/burn wound on the little girl. After they got the warrant, he found the bathtub drain was clogged with hair and some kind of material that turned out to be skin, which he collected for evidence.
He said police confiscated computers, old cellphones, and narcotics paraphernalia.
Officer Salajan said the child’s bedroom had a nanny cam on a dresser, a dresser with children’s clothing, toys, and a mattress leaned against the wall.
Sumpter Police Sgt. Elizabeth Egerer was the next witness, testifying Det./Sgt. Toth brought her into the case on Jan. 5 for help with technology and warrants. She studied Facebook, Snapchat, Google, and phones at the residence.
After going through the prosecutor, 34th District Court and Facebook, she came up with 10,777 pages on Diaz from Oct. 1, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018. Sgt. Egerer said Diaz and Fields corresponded several times a day and usually had something to say about Gabrielle.
Prosecutor Elsey used this as the evidence for the added conspiracy charges.
Elsey showed seven brief videos sent back and forth between Fields and Diaz. They showed the little girl in November and December sleeping on the floor in just her underwear while the mattress is propped against the wall. They show Gabrielle wrapped in garbage bags to keep warm and acting weird after allegedly being given Adderall. [Adderall is an amphetamine/salt combo used to treat ADHD.] In late December, they showed the little girl crying and screaming, in only her underwear, and the voice of Diaz yelling in the background.
The last witness was Det./Sgt. Toth, officer in charge of the case, who testified he had been a police officer for 23 1/2 years with 18 1/2 of those years at Sumpter.
He testified he went to the morgue, spoke with Investigator French there, and observed the body. Pictures were entered into evidence.
Diaz and Fields fled the state and warrants for their arrests were filed. They were picked up in Georgia, just short of the Florida state line, and then extradition began.
Det./Sgt. Toth testified once the transportation service that was bringing her back got to Bowling Green, OH, he and Sgt. Egerer drove down to pick Diaz up and bring her back. He said Sgt. Egerer read Miranda Rights to Diaz and they did not discuss the case in the car.
Later in his office, Det./Sgt. Toth said he read the Miranda Rights to her again and had her initial each line indicating she understood. This was recorded by body cameras.
Toth said he set up two different body cams to record different angles of the 2 1/2 hour interview with Diaz and these two discs were entered into evidence. Rick Pomorski, an investigator from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, also participated in the interview.
Judge Green said the audio was horrible and hard to follow, so Toth produced Diaz’s written statement. In the statement Diaz said she gave Gabrielle a bath to clean the burns up, like they did for her in the hospital. She said, “Brad is still bitching … I was holding her to get her to stop.” She said said she was rubbing on the burns to get the skin to come off, which caused the child to scream. She estimated the pain, on a scale of 1-10 as being, “either 99 or 100.”
Then Proseuctor Elsey made the motion to bind Diaz over for trial.
Defense attorney Cripps said he didn’t feel that the additional charges of conspiracy were established.
Judge Green said she had read the messages that had gone back and forth between Brad and Candice, that hadn’t been read aloud in the courtroom.
“… beating the crap out of this child, urinating and feces, Adderall … all go back and forth … clearly what they are doing to this child…” is together, she said.
Defense attorney Cripps said first-degree murder means she caused the death and, “I don’t think the evidence shows that. It may have been a showing of neglect.There was physical abuse by Mr. Fields, but she accidentally suffocated her daughter. She said, ‘I held her too tight and she stopped breathing.'”
Judge Green said the autopsy showed she was suffocated and there is probable cause that she did do it intentionally.
Cripps said as to the “torture,” she was rubbing burns to help her daughter.
“For purposes of probable cause, I’m not buying that. I couldn’t do that to my child,” Judge Green said.
She then bound Candice Diaz over to circuit court on all charges.
Editor’s Note: The Sept. 4 preliminary exam of Candice Diaz was recorded by Fox 2 Detroit, WJBK, and is on its web site. So far there have been 122,738 views.