Despite child protective investigators never finding any evidence of abuse in the past, 10-month-old Tariah White had been the subject of a child abuse investigation before she died Tuesday after suffering multiple skull fractures and bruises. And her suspected killer and mother’s boyfriend, Eric Neri, previously has faced violent criminal charges involving his own child’s mother.
Tariah died while she was in Neri’s care for about two hours Tuesday at her mother’s home in the 1200 block of Third Street West in Bradenton, according to investigators. An autopsy determined a single blow to the back of the head killed Tariah.
Neri was arrested Wednesday morning after surrendering to the Bradenton Police Department. He is now charged with second-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect. He is being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.
Tariah’s 3-year-old brother, who also had been left in Neri’s care Tuesday, is being treated at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg for injuries police say were inflicted by Neri, including multiple skull fractures, a leg fracture and bruises all over his body.
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On Friday, a judge removed the boy from his mother’s custody and ordered Tronesh Ackerman not to have any contact with the boy.
An investigation in Tariah’s death is now underway by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Child Protective Investigative Division with the assistance of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“The loss of this young child is devastating,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement to the Bradenton Herald. “The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has opened a child death investigation to examine the circumstances surrounding the death. DCF will assist and MCSO in any way possible in their investigation.”
Neri has been charged with violent crimes before.
On Aug. 9, 2013, Bradenton police records show officers were called to a home where the mother of Neri’s child reported Neri had hit her. Police learned the woman was only 14 years old and had a child with Neri, who was 17 years old at the time.
A month and a half later when Neri was arrested on unrelated charges, Neri confessed to another detective that he was the child’s father and that he had known the girl’s age when they had sex, according to court documents.
A misdemeanor count of domestic battery against Neri was not prosecuted because investigators could not locate the alleged victim, according to court records. Investigators did, however, charge Neri with lewd and lascivious battery. At the time of his arrest, detectives obtained a saliva swab from Neri in order to compare it the child’s DNA.
Detectives were then unable to locate the girl to get a saliva swab from the child, reports say. The State Attorney’s Office also scheduled at least four meetings with the girl and her mother, for which they failed to appear even when subpoenas were sent to them.
“Without the cooperation and testimony of the victim and her mother, the State cannot adequately investigate or prosecute this case,” Assistant State Attorney Darlene Ragoonanan stated in an interdepartmental memo. “Due to the nature of the allegations and the lack of cooperation with this investigation demonstrated by both the juvenile victim and her mother, a copy of this decline memorandum will be forwarded to Child Protective Services and the Department of Children and Families.”
Tariah also has been the subject of a child protective investigation before. In March, police were called when the infant’s mother met with her father with the intention of ending the relationship with him, according to records of a previously closed child protective investigation.
At around 1 p.m. March 24, Ackerman had met with Tariah’s father, Isiah White, with the intention of breaking up with him, according to the case notes. White, who was holding Tariah, became upset and began to argue with her, she told police.
A friend of Ackerman’s was present, and when White became upset, Ackerman asked him to give Tariah to her friend. When he did, Tariah began to cry, according to the reports.
Ackerman told police that White then snatched her purse out of her hands and pushed her. Ackerman pushed him back, and White pushed her again, at which point she decided to call the police, according to the reports.
White had also squeezed her nonstop for a minute, she told police, making her feel like she couldn’t breathe.
Ackerman told the child protective investigators that White was not a violent person and most of their fights had been typical relationship-type issues. She did admit that those arguments became violent on three prior occasions, but she said it had never risen to the level it did March 24.
The couple had never lived together, Ackerman told investigators. They had however spent nights together, but she could not provide them an address for White, claiming she did not know where he lived. When asked for his phone number, she said she had it disconnected after the fight.
White has no known prior convictions.
“At this time, mom seems to be doing well with the way she managed the situation. Mom had called the police after (White) attacked her, and she has not been in contact with him ever since that happened,” child protective investigator Ruben Alcy stated in his case notes May 3. “Mom appears to have caregiver protective capacities to take care of her children.”
The investigation did not sustain any findings of abuse or neglect, and the case was closed May 3. A week after the case was closed, Alcy went to the home again to make sure the Pack-n-Play he had given Ackerman at her request was being used properly.
“Mom appeared to be a bit argumentative, took a bit for CPS to find mom,” child protective supervisor Kimberly Burnham noted in her consultation notes in the case. “Mom (advised) she isn’t going to press charges but was breaking up with (White) when it occurred.”