Mom, boyfriend charged with abuse after 5-year-old's death

Mother told Jacksonville police boyfriend repeatedly hit her daughter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 5-year-old girl died Friday, two days after police said she was found unresponsive from multiple injuries while in the care of her mother and her mother's boyfriend, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Jonte Harris and Michelle Cannimore, both 26, were arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse in the death of Cannimore's daughter, Zykerria Robinson. Cannimore is also charged with child neglect.

The arrest report said the mother admitted Harris had abused the girl since August and that he hit her over and over in the face and head Wednesday until she became unconscious. When Harris was questioned, police said he admitted he got enraged because the girl was “being disrespectful.”

The police report indicates the only witness to this abuse was the victim's 6-year-old sister.

Cannimore said Zykerria was unconscious on the couch when she left for work around 10 p.m. When her daughter was not breathing when Cannimore returned home at 3 a.m. Thursday, she called 911.

Doctors said the Zykerria had severe head trauma from severe physical abuse. According to the report, doctors found old injuries in various stages of healing, indicating “long-term abuse.”

Cannimore initially told officers the girl fell and hit her head in the bathtub around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. She said knew her daughter was hurt badly, but she was afraid to call 911 in fear of losing custody of her children.

"There are not sufficient words to describe the pain those who loved her are feeling right now, but the department will continue to ensure her sibling is in a safe home and that she receives the highest quality care as she recovers from this loss," DCF's' interim secretary, Rebecca Kapusta, said in a statement.

A memorial was placed in memory of Zykerria outside the door of the family's apartment. Loved ones plan to hold a vigil there for her on Friday.

"She was the sweetest little girl there was," Zykerria's aunt, Kasandra Cannimore, told News4Jax via text message. "She would come over and play with my kids, who are their cousins. They would go to Nana's house and play all the time. They loved each other."

A neighbor told News4Jax that Zykerria's father, Zafir Robinson, was shot in the head last year at his apartment complex in the New Town area of Jacksonville, but recovered. That neighbor said the Robinson family had wanted custody of Zykerria and her sister.

Other neighbors told News4Jax they had concerns about the girl, but they had no idea she was being physically abused.

"She is a sweet little girl. She was scared. She's a child," said one woman who didn't want to give her name. "I've seen the man run the little girl. He was running behind her saying, 'Run, run,' and she was crying and running apparently because she wasn't doing good in Pre-K."

The couple is in jail and each has a court appearance scheduled for Nov. 8. Once the autopsy report is completed, the charges could be updated to either homicide or murder.

DCF said it will conduct a comprehensive analysis and review any interaction the family had with the child welfare system.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.

Digital election producer in 2022. He created in 1995 and managed The Local Station's website through 2021.