The man arrested following the death of a 2 1/2-year-old Centralia girl is being held in the Lewis County Jail as investigators pursue evidence of murder and rape, according to documents filed today in Lewis County Superior Court.
James Maurice Reeder, 25, made his initial court appearance this afternoon as prosecutors released a probable cause statement indicating the child had been "systematically tortured" prior to her death.
The documents state that Reeder could be charged with two counts of first-degree rape of a child, two counts of first-degree assault and murder.
He has not been officially charged. Prosecutors requested that a hearing be held Tuesday at 4 p.m. to allow investigators time to process evidence.
The manner of death for the girl, who was found dead Thursday in a bathtub at a home near West Oakview Avenue, has been ruled a homicide by the Lewis County Coroner’s Office.
The toddler was identified as Koralynn Fister of Centralia. Drowning and blunt head trauma were identified as the cause of death.
Reeder is the mother’s boyfriend, according to investigators.
At 3 p.m. Thursday, Riverside Fire Authority personnel and Centralia police responded to a call of a child not breathing. They arrived at the residence to find Reeder performing CPR on the toddler. The mother was not home at the time.
Reeder told police he was bathing the child and left the room to retrieve a towel and returned to find her facedown in the bathtub.
“His statements were inconsistent with the injuries on the child,” said Centralia Detective Sgt. Pat Fitzgerald.
The child showed injuries that indicated recent as well as prolonged abuse, said Fitzgerald.
The child was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital by responding paramedics where she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
Reeder was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder later Thursday night.
According to court documents:
Reeder had been living with the child, her older sibling and their mother for about 10 weeks. About one month ago, Reeder suggested that he and the girl’s mother split parenting duties.
When the mother would leave, Reeder would watch Fister while the mother, who has not been named, watched the older child.
Injuries observed on the body and in photographs of Fister indicated evidence of prolonged physical and sexual abuse. Those injuries included palm-sized pieces of skin missing from the child’s buttocks. Bruising, abrasions and other signs of trauma were found on the child’s body.
A pathologist who is investigating the crime has determined that the injuries were the result of “two distinct events that caused great bodily harm.”