As the Michigan community of Sumpter Township struggles to come to terms with the shocking torture-related murder of 4-year-old Gabrielle “Gabby” Barrett, a Washtenaw County medical examiner is calling hers the “worst child death case” of the examiner’s 27-year-career. As the Detroit Free Press reports, authorities believe that Gabrielle was abused and even tortured by her mother, 24-year-old Candice Diaz, and her mother’s boyfriend, 28-year-old Brad fields. Investigators believe that the couple’s final act of child abuse, which allegedly took place on January 1, cost Gabrielle Barrett her life.
According to authorities, Gabrielle Barrett suffered severe, scalding-related burns to her legs, buttocks, and elbows following a bath in too-hot water. In addition to the burns, the Washtenaw County medical examiner says that Gabby’s body showed evidence of “traumatic injuries and signs of Battered Child Syndrome (multiple injuries, multiple sites, multiple stages).”
Following her death, Gabrielle’s mother and boyfriend allegedly fled their Michigan home. The pair were arrested while driving in Georgia on January 9, and both have been charged in connection with the 4-year-old’s shocking murder. According to authorities, both Diaz and Fields “have severe mental illnesses for which they admit they are not treating.” In a subsequent interview with investigators, Gabrielle Barrett’s mother gave her version of what happened to her daughter. Brad Fields refused to give his account of events to a Child Protective Services worker, reports Crime Online.
The couple remains behind bars, charged with felony murder, second-degree murder, first-degree child abuse, and torture. As prosecutors prepare their case against the couple, heartbreaking new details in the case of Gabrielle Barrett have continued to emerge.
According to court documents, Candice Diaz told authorities that she allowed her daughter to run her own bath water on New Year’s Eve. Diaz claims that the bath resulted in her daughter suffering “severe burns,” but that she never sought medical treatment for her child. On the following day, January 1, Diaz says Gabrielle took another bath, where Diaz allegedly left her alone to go to the kitchen to cook breakfast. When she returned, Gabby’s mother claims that the 4-year-old was submerged in the water.
“The mother claimed she ran Gabrielle’s bath and placed Gabrielle into the tub after she filled the tub halfway. The mother then claimed she left Gabrielle alone in the tub and went to the kitchen to make pancakes.”
Candice Diaz claimed that after she pulled her submerged daughter from her bath water, the 4-year-old began to vomit. That’s when she says she called Brad Fields to the bathroom to assist her. Gabrielle Barrett reportedly continued to vomit as Fields attempted to perform CPR. This was at approximately 10:05 a.m. About 36 minutes later, 911 was called to the scene.
According to first responders, they attempted to revive Gabrielle with CPR, then transported her to Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital. She was later pronounced dead by doctors at the facility, who observed widespread signs of abuse on the child’s body, signs that indicated that the fatal act of alleged abuse was not the first episode of abuse that she’d suffered.
“Gabrielle had burns all over her body and bruising to her entire body.”
Court documents allege that Gabrielle Barrett had been burned so badly that her “big toe fell off” as a result.
In the family home, investigators found that Gabby had been burned so severely that pieces of her skin were found “melted off” in the bathtub drain. As Crime Watch reports, police also allegedly found cocaine and weapons inside the home. “Filthy” conditions had previously been observed inside the dwelling by police responding to a domestic assault call in 2016. Then, officers described seeing rotten food, flies everywhere, and animal urine and feces throughout the mobile home.
Since Gabrielle Barrett’s death, her 1-year-old half-sister has been removed from her parents’ custody. Diaz and Fields remain behind bar and are no longer allowed to have contact with the surviving child.