Mother of child found dead in refrigerator previously lost custody of older child

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Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News

Posted on June 12, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 12 at 6:09 PM

HOUSTON—Troubling new details have emerged in the case of the girl whose mother allegedly wrapped her dead child’s body in a blanket and stuffed it into a refrigerator drawer.

Child Protective Services officials said Amber Keyes, the girl’s mother, lost custody of another child more than a decade ago.  CPS authorities said that after they investigated suspicions that the 18-month-old had suffered physical abuse in 2002, the child was placed in foster care.

“The parental rights were terminated, which means mom was not able to do the things that were asked of her,” said Gwen Carter, a CPS spokesperson. “That child was adopted.”  

Keyes later gave birth to two other children. Authorities said the youngest, a 5-year-old girl, this week discovered her 9-year-old sister’s corpse in the family’s refrigerator.  The body of Ayahana Comb, who had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair, weighed only 17 pounds.

A neighbor called police to the Happy Home Apartments in the 10100 block of Club Creek after the sister’s gruesome discovery.  After the mother turned herself in to police on Tuesday, she told investigators her daughter simply stopped breathing one night in January and she didn’t know what to do with her body.

Despite Keyes’ disturbing history, Child Protective Services said they couldn’t have investigated her again unless someone had complained about her abusing one of her younger children.

“Unless we get a new report, the law does not allow us to follow that parent,” said Gwen Carter, a CPS spokesperson. “We do not have the legal responsibility or ability to follow that parent, nor do we have the manpower.”

No charges have been filed in the case.  Some of the dead girl’s relatives are trying to gain custody of the surviving sister who discovered the body.

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