Affidavit: 3-month-old malnourished, covered in apparent burns

Crime Watch 8

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — An Indiana mother was arrested Saturday in Muncie in connection with the death of her 3-month-old daughter, officials said.

Sarah Ann Styhl, 32, was booked Saturday night into the Delaware County Jail on a preliminary charge of neglect of a dependent causing death.

The cause and manner of the baby’s death remained under investigation Sunday night.

Sarah and her daughter, Shae Anna Marie Styhl, were dropped off Tuesday at the YWCA on East Charles Street by a Jay County caseworker, shelter representatives said.

The pair had been at the facility for four days when a YWCA employee called 911 Saturday around 10:45 a.m. to report an unresponsive baby.

Shae was pronounced dead Saturday at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital.

An autopsy was conducted Sunday, officials said. Results were not yet available Sunday night.

The infant had “what appeared to be burns covering most parts of her body,” according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by News 8.

Investigators observed peeling skin, “large depression marks” on her right arm, apparent burns on her face, signs of malnutrition and a “large injury to the infant’s buttocks and vaginal area,” according to the charging document.

“This area was purple and seeping what appeared to be blood,” the affidavit states. “This injury appeared to be something that would resemble a large blood blister or burn blister.” 

A postmortem skeletal survey conducted at IU Ball revealed “extensive skeletal trauma,” including fractures in various stages of healing on all four of the child’s extremities.

Detectives found bottles of burn relief spray, diaper rash ointments and Icy Hot patches while searching Sarah’s YWCA room, according to the affidavit. 

The search also uncovered items — including burp cloths and bed sheets — stained with what appeared to be blood.

During an interview with detectives, Sarah said she “had never seen” the injury near her daughter’s vaginal area; she noted the “irritation” on her baby’s face and said she thought it was an allergic reaction, the charging document states.

She blamed her daughter’s arm injury on a stroller accident but told conflicting stories about how it happened, according to investigators.

A YWCA representative called the baby’s death a “tragedy” in a statement to News 8 and said they were “cooperating fully” with the investigation.

Prosecuting attorney Eric Hoffman expects to announce formal charges against the mother within a week, he told News 8.

She remained in custody Sunday night at the Delaware County Jail on a $50,000 bond.

Attorneys representing Sarah Styhl could not be reached for comment.

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