A 31-year-old Watauga father was charged Friday with capital murder in connection with the December death of his 2-year-old daughter.
Anthony Michael Sanders is accused of suffocating his daughter, Ellie Sanders, while caring for her and his 5-year-old son at the family’s Watauga home.
Emergency crews were called to the home in the 6600 block of Fair Meadow Drive the evening of Dec. 12.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Sanders had been caring for his two children all day beginning about 10 a.m. while his wife was at an art show.
When the wife returned, about 8:30 p.m., Sanders was in the living room with his son and Ellie was purported to be sleeping on the parents’ bed.
“She never saw her,” said Sgt. Jason Babcock, a police spokesman.
Babcock said that about 30 minutes after the mother returned home, the girl’s brother tried to wake his sister.
He went in there and told (his parents) that she was sleeping and wouldn’t wake up.
Sgt. Jason Babcock on the 5-year-old’s attempt to wake his sister
“He tried to wake her up and she wouldn’t wake up. He went in there and told [his parents] that she was sleeping and wouldn’t wake up,” Babcock said.
The mother told the boy to let his sister sleep, Babcock said, but the father, went to check on Ellie, soon yelling for his wife to call 911 because she was not breathing.
Ellie was taken by ambulance to North Hills Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 10:10 that night.
Bruising and bite marks
Babcock said police quickly suspected foul play because of severe bruising on the girl’s face and head.
According the affidavit, doctors found recent acute bruising all over Ellie’s body, including bruising around the eyes commonly referred to as “raccoon eyes.” Doctors also found blood behind the girl’s ear and two bite marks on her back that appeared to have been made by an adult.
In an interview with police, Sanders provided no explanation for the injuries, Babcock said.
“He has no idea what happened,” Babcock said Sanders told police. “He just went back there and she wasn’t breathing.”
Anthony stated multiple times that he checked on [Ellie] approximately 30 minutes prior to [his wife’s] arrival and she appeared fine and was up watching television in the bedroom laughing.
Detective B. McComis in an arrest warrant affidavit
Sanders told police repeatedly that he had checked on Ellie and even changed her diaper about 30 minutes before his wife arrived home. He told police the girl “appeared fine and was up watching television in the bedroom laughing,” the affidavit states.
Recent homicide ruling
Watauga police obtained a capital murder warrant for Sanders after the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled on April 14 that the girl’s death was a homicide caused by asphyxiation.
“Anthony, by his own admission, was the only adult that was in the residence during the time the injuries were inflicted upon his daughter which caused her death,” Detective B. McComis wrote in the affidavit.
Sanders was arrested April 15 at his mother’s Fort Worth home, Babcock said. He remained in the North Richland Hills Jail on Friday with bail set at $1 million in the case, records say.
“It’s been a tough one for us to deal with working it and having to wait for the results,” Babcock said.
Just a fit of rage-type deal, anger.
Sgt. Jason Babcock regarding the suspected motive
Babcock said police believe that Sanders caused Ellie’s death by putting his hand over her mouth and holding her down.
“Just a fit of rage-type deal, anger,” Babcock said.
He said investigators theorize that Sanders may have become upset with Ellie for interrupting him as he played computer games.
“He’s very involved in computer gaming. … That’s something he did constantly,” Babcock said police learned in the investigation. “She may have interrupted him somehow. His day may have been interrupted.”
Court records show Sanders was charged in July 2011 with choking the girl’s mother, whom he later married. The case, however, was no-billed in August 2011, records show.
After Ellie’s death, Child Protective Services took custody of her brother, now 6. He has been placed in the care of a relative, CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said Friday.
Gonzales said the family had no prior history with CPS.
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