5-Year-Old Who Was Burned on Space Heater Later Dies in Another Incident as Father and Woman Arrested

by San Eli News

North Carolina couple Jermaine Rhyne and Tiffany Valentine have been arrested after Rhyne’s 5-year-old daughter tragically died just a few weeks after the little girl suffered severe injuries following an incident with a space heater.

The case unfolded earlier this month on Jan. 8 when Jassika Steele burned her hands on a space heater, multiple outlets including ABC 11 reported. Less than two weeks later, Steele died on Jan. 21.

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Rhyne and Valentine were later arrested and accused of not properly watching the young girl at the time of the incident, according to the warrant, ABC 11 reported. Officials also allege that neither Rhyne nor Valentine took the child to get medical treatment.

The child’s official cause of death has not been determined yet, but police say the negligence of Rhyne and Valentine played a part in her death, according to ABC 11.

The warrant, also obtained by CBS17, alleges that Rhyne had no regard “for human life being the parent of the child and not supervising the child which burned her hands on a space heater and not seeking medical treatment for those burns, resulting in serious bodily injury.”

Rhyne appeared in court on Tuesday and in a video obtained by ABC 11, he can be heard tearfully pleading with a judge, saying, “Have mercy on my soul.”

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Rhyne had hoped to get a bond reduction, however, the judge denied his request.

Valentine also appeared in court and claimed her innocence saying, “I wasn’t supposed to be watching those kids, and I wasn’t watching those kids,” WRAL reported.

Since her death, Valentine’s cousin Ashley Valentine has spoken out, telling ABC 11 the child died after choking on a suction cup and not from the burns on her hands.

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“They woke up in the morning to get the kids ready for school and the child was dead,” Ashley told ABC 11. “What they’re doing to this family is tragic. They didn’t even get to bury their child yet, and y’all have them in here on a $100,000 bond. They can’t even bond out, over something that could have happened to anybody.”

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Ashley, who also spoke to WRAL, said Rhyne moved to North Carolina after winning custody of his four children. Their mother lives in New York. Valentine has a 12-year-old child, Ashley told the news outlet.

Rhyne and Valentine are both being held on a $100,000 bond as they face two charges of felony child abuse.

The Raleigh Police Department did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

It is not immediately clear if Rhyne and Valentine have legal representation.