Grandmother of 8-month-old allegedly raped and killed by dad says system failed

Image 1 of 2

A 22-year-old man has been charged with the murder and sexual assault of his 8-month old daughter.

FOX 2 talked with the suspect's mother, who says the baby should never have been in her son's care because she claims the baby's mother has had other children taken away from her in the past.

Aisha Saltmarshall tells us she warned police, case workers and the state - but, in the end, the system failed her grandchild Janiyah.

On Monday, James Saltmarshall broke down in court.

"Wait, wait, this never happened," he said. "Wait, wait a minute. Can I call my mom, can I please call my mom."

After his outburst, the judge charged him with the murder, child abuse and sexual assault.

"I'm losing two babies however you look at it. It looks like he's a bad person," Saltmarshall says. "That's still my baby."

Detroit man charged with sexual assault, murder of 8-month-old girl
Baby rushed to hospital after she stops breathing at Inkster motel

Last Thursday, police were called to Inkster's Alpine Motel after James claimed his baby had stopped breathing. Janiyah was rushed to the hospital but she eventually died from her injuries, which included trauma to the head.

Aisha, who had been caring for Janiyah, says last Monday her son and his girlfriend tried to take the baby back. She says she called Detroit police and Child Protective Services, warning them about the potential danger. She says authorities ignored her concerns and officers handed Janiyah to the couple.

"I'm telling you the baby is going to be in harm's way," Aisha said she told police. "Why do you insist on giving her (back) - I don't care if they do have custody papers or whatever any questions you may have, of course they will lie and tell you just the opposite."

Aisha claimed after that, she called every Wayne County agency telling them Janiyah was not safe. And then on Thursday, her worst fears became reality.

In court Monday, police told what James said to them the night of the incident.

"Saltmarshall denied initially that Janiyah had fallen. He said he attempted to pick her up and shook her in an attempt to wake her," said Lt. Jeffrey Smith. "As the interview progressed, (Saltmarshall) said Janiyah initially slipped off the bed on the floor, and struck her head. Throughout the interview, Saltmarshall denied any responsibility in touching and damage to the anus."

Aisha says the system failed little Janiyah, and her son will have to pay for his alleged crimes. But she feels more people are responsible for the death of the baby.

"I just wanted her safe," Aisha says. "I didn't need custody of her; she just needed to be in a safe environment. The environment she was in wasn't a safe environment. DPD, CPS, DHS all failed. I think they need to be held accountable for this."

FOX 2 spoke to Detroit police, which said CPS made the call for officers to hand the baby back to the couple. The State of Michigan says the father had proper court documentation for custody.

CPS workers believed he was living with his sister, who had the proper living environment and workers had just tested James for drugs and he came back clear.

A spokesperson with DPD said the case appeared to be a custody battle; no one suspected what was going to happen.