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Coroner: Decatur 2-year-old likely took an hour to die from cold and neglect
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Coroner: Decatur 2-year-old likely took an hour to die from cold and neglect

Ta'naja Barnes

Ta’Naja Barnes is shown. Her mother and a live-in boyfriend are charged in the death of the girl. 

DECATUR — A coroner’s jury heard Wednesday how it probably took around an hour for 2-year-old Ta’Naja Barnes to die from a combination of cold, malnutrition and neglect.

The jury meeting in Macon County Courthouse deliberated for just minutes before returning a verdict that her death was a homicide.

Appearing downstairs in Courtroom One moments before the jury met, Anthony Myers, 25, pleaded not guilty to charges of both first degree murder and endangering the life and health of a child, causing loss of life, in the death of Ta’Naja.

Myers was the live-in boyfriend of Ta’Naja’s mother, Twanka L. Davis, 21, who has already appeared in court pleading not guilty to identical charges. Judge Phoebe Bowers had found sufficient evidence for Myers to stand trial after hearing he described Barnes as his daughter and identified himself as a parent responsible for her care.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Decatur Police detective James Wrigley said Ta’Naja’s thin, cold body had been found wrapped in a urine-stained blanket the morning of Feb. 11. He described her house in the 1800 block of East North Street as full of filth and rodent feces with disconnected plumbing. The temperature in the home, where the heating was often shut off to save money, he said, had been 45 degrees when police arrived. The outside air temperature ranged between 20 and 32 degrees.

Wrigley said a space heater that had been in Ta’Naja’s room had been removed and placed in a room where Myers slept with Davis and Ta’Naja’s half brother. This boy was nearly 2 and weighted 28 pounds compared to Ta’Naja’s weight of just 21 pounds.

Reading from an autopsy report, Macon County Coroner Michael E. Day said the main cause of death for Ta’Naja was listed as “cold exposure,” and it probably had taken the child an hour to succumb to the cold creeping through her body. When she had arrived at hospital, her core temperature was so low it didn’t register on instruments.

“Other significant conditions (contributing to death) were dehydration and malnourishment due to neglect,” added Day, reading from the report.

Both Myers and Davis remain in custody in the Macon County Jail in lieu of posting bond set at $1 million each.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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