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GBI rules death of Columbus 6-month-old a homicide, Muscogee County coroner says

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled the September death of a Columbus infant to be a homicide, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan announced Monday.

Shantra Gates was previously arrested and charged with murder and first-degree cruelty to children in the death of her 6-month-old daughter Ke’Niyah Gates.

Bryan said the infant suffered blunt force head trauma.

The infant was injured in September at Bull Creek Apartments, located at 17 Creek Way, according to Sgt. Lorri Zieverink in a Recorder’s Court hearing in December. She said police were called Sept. 25 to the pediatric emergency unit at Piedmont Columbus Regional, where the baby was brought by ambulance.

The child was then flown by helicopter to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, according to Zieverink.

Zieverink said doctors in Atlanta performed surgery to try to relieve pressure caused by bleeding in the baby’s brain before the infant ultimately died. Police previously said the child died the next day, though the coroner’s office said Monday that the child died Sept. 25.

The mother told investigators she and a relative were bringing laundry into the apartment, and the relative set the laundry basket on the floor while she lay the baby on a bed, according to Zieverink.

Zieverink said Gates told police the infant fell onto the floor when she left to get the laundry. The mother comforted the child until she stopped crying, and went to bed, awaking at 7:20 a.m. to find the child still asleep, the officer said.

After the mother took a shower, she found the baby was having seizures, and texted the child’s father before calling 911, the investigator said.

She said Gates, who also has a 3-year-old, sent the infant’s father a text that read, “When these children are dead, you’re going to be sick.”

The bed the mother said the baby fell from was just over 40 inches off the floor, and doctors said the trauma was too extensive to have been caused by a fall from that height, Zieverink said.

Public defender Shaneka Terry, Shantra Gates’ lawyer, repeatedly asked whether any doctor specifically said the baby’s injury could not have resulted from a fall. Zieverink said the autopsy’s classifying the trauma as “non-accidental” meant the fall could not have caused the trauma.

Judge Susan Henderson sent the case to Muscogee Superior Court, where the case is still pending. Gates is scheduled to appear in court next month for a bond hearing, court records show.