Man, 24, accused of killing girlfriend's 22-month-old daughter

Police say girl stopped breathing, died from shaken baby syndrome

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 24-year-old Jacksonville man is charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend's 22-month-old daughter.

Police said Todd Howell claimed he dropped Kyleann Burress (pictured below) on Saturday morning at the Villages of Baymeadows apartments and tried to shake her to wake her up.

The girl stopped breathing and was taken to a hospital, where she died Sunday from shaken baby syndrome.

"It's sad and it's tragic, and it definitely serves as a reminder and a wake-up call to all single parents that they should be choosing their partners very carefully," said DCF spokesperson John Harrell.

Police said the incident happened after Howell took the girl's mother to work. The two have been together for two months.

"When we interviewed him, he actually denied doing anything wrong, but he said he was changing the child, and during the course of changing the child, he dropped the child and started shaking the child in order to revive the child," said Assistant Chief Chris Butler, of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Police said no other children were in the home at the time.

"She was just a wonderful girl, a beautiful, beautiful baby, and we want justice for her," said Kerry Raymond, Kyleann's grandmother. "She was an angel. She had the most beautiful blue eyes. She had a laugh that was indescribable. It was infectious."

"We've lost our granddaughter for no reason," said John Burress, the girl's grandfather.

The Florida Department of Children and Families is investigating.

"She's a mom. She has to go to work," Raymond said of her daughter. "She trusted this man with this baby."

"I want justice for Kylie. What was done was wrong," Burress added.

The Department of Children and Family services told Channel 4 Monday night that two-thirds of all child abuse and neglect cases in the nation come at the hands of a single mother's boyfriend. The majority of those cases involve children under the age of 3, which can make it difficult, but not impossible to stop problems before it's too late.

"We want answers, but I don't think we'll ever get them," said Kyleann's grandfather, John Burress. "He admitted what he did, but I don't think everything has been told."

"When you look at the deaths from shaken baby syndrome, is that what you have is the vast majority of cases are male perpetrators, many times it is boyfriends. We know that in all abuse and neglect cases, it's the boyfriends of the mother who are the perpetrators in about two-thirds of all of the cases," said Harrell.

There are ways for parents to spot abuse. Harrell told Channel 4 that parents can narrow abuse down to six signs:

  • Parents should be aware if their child has:
  • Frequent bruises or broken bones
  • Any unexplained changes in behavior
  • Irrational fear of certain places or people
  • Increase in absences from class
  • Lake of personal hygiene

"So we would urge parents all over this community to make sure you get to know that person very well before you allow them to be alone with your child," Harrell said. "Make sure they know what to do if the child starts to act out, to not overly discipline."

While police said past abuse was never reported at Burress' Southside apartment, a public records search shows that Howell has previous drug charges and traffic violations. Harrell points out that Burress' wrap sheet is valuable information.

Harrell encourages all single mothers to take a look at anyone's background before inviting a potential mate in their home.

"Why not do a records search? Why not do a Google search? See if they've had any crimes in their past. See if they've had an issues or incidents with children," said Harrell. "You really can't put a price on your child's safety."

Funeral arrangements are still being worked out.

A fund has been set up for Kyleann to help with funeral expenses. Donations can be made here.