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Former resident person of interest in toddlers death
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A former Turlock resident implicated in the death of a 3-year-old Exeter girl could be facing possible arrest in the days ahead as law enforcement continues their probe into the toddler's violent death.
Christopher Cheary, 21, formerly of Turlock, was the boyfriend of the 3-year-old's mother and has been named as a person of interest in the case, as well as the girl's mother, Ericka Smith, of Exeter, according to the Exeter Police Department.
The case began on the afternoon of May 7, when police and emergency personnel were dispatched to an Exeter apartment for a report of an injured child. In the apartment they found 3-year-old Sophia Acosta lying unconscious and naked on the floor. Medics were able to revive her pulse and rushed her to Kaweah Delta Medical Center. Hours later she was flown to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera. She died from a brain hemorrhage on May 11.
The autopsy results indicate the toddler died from blunt force trauma, according to the Exeter Police Department. The police department said Cheary, Smith and a neighbor were at the apartment when emergency personnel responded. An 18-month-old girl, the sister of the victim, was also at the apartment.
The death was deemed suspicious in nature and has been investigated as a homicide.
Almost two weeks after Acosta's death, Cheary was interviewed by CBS 47 television. In the interview Cheary admits he and Smith were in the apartment using heroin. He said they heard a sound in the girls' bedroom and went in and found Acosta unconscious on the floor. Cheary told CBS 47 that Acosta likely hit her head on a small metal shopping cart next to her bed.
The Exeter Police Department has served two search warrants at the apartment and a detective was sent to the girl's funeral in Winton as part of the investigation.
Smith went to the funeral uninvited and accompanied by a man who said he was a pastor. The man spoke briefly during the service and tempers began to flare. The Merced County Sheriff's Department was contacted and deputies escorted Smith from the cemetery, according to sheriff spokesman Deputy Tom MacKenzie.
Days after Acosta was hospitalized Smith filed a restraining order barring Cheary from contacting her.
The Exeter Police Department stated they are thoroughly exploring every avenue of the case and believe an arrest or arrests will be forthcoming.
Cheary attended schools in Turlock and his MySpace page lists Hilmar/Turlock as his hometown.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.