Mother charged for fatally abusing 8-year-old daughter, claims child was possessed

Chelsea Duperon, 30, of Wayne (left) is accused of fatally abusing her 8-year-old daughter, Lyla Cassel (right).

***This story includes details of child abuse***

A Wayne mother claimed her 8-year-old daughter was possessed by bad spirits, leading her to fatally abuse the child, according to police.

Chelsea Duperon, 30, was charged with felony murder and first-degree child abuse in connection to the death of her daughter, Lyla Cassel.

According to police and the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, Duperon allegedly caused multiple injuries to Lyla's head and neck inside a home in the 35200 block of Phyllis Street – leaving her to die days later rather than seeking medical attention.

Duperon appeared before a judge Tuesday afternoon and stood quietly while her attorney entered a plea of not guilty. 

"The sheer brutality that innocent 8-year-old Lyla suffered on March 13 of 2024 is really like nothing I've ever seen in my five years of handling child abuse cases," said Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Erin Wilmoth.

Nobody called 911 until Saturday, March 16, when Lyla was already dead, Wilmoth said.

"The massive amount of swelling to her head and her face – she was completely unrecognizable," Wilmoth continued. "The cause of death: Massive, massive blunt force trauma to the head and face, which ultimately caused excessive brain swelling."

That brain swelling led to the child's death. Investigators said that if Duperon or her boyfriend called 911, Lyla might have lived.

"She could have been saved," Wilmoth said. "Lyla was just placed in a bed. Her mother went out to the store to get diapers because this child could not go to the bathroom –diapers, heating pads, vasoline as well as some liquor for herself– while her daughter is lying in bed dying a slow death."

Police were called to a home in the 35200 block of Phyllis Street on March 16, 2024 for reports that a child was not breathing. When they arrived, they found 8-year-old Lyla Cassel unresponsive in a bedroom with multiple injuries to her head and neck

Duperon initially told investigators that Lyla fell down the stairs. The mother then changed her story when police asked about the extensive swelling on her own right hand and arm.

"She mumbled out loud: 'I swear to god this is not me. This sounds crazy, but there's bad spirits,'"  said Sgt. Jason Walters. "Duperon stated ‘there was a lady and she came out of nowhere.'"

Duperon's boyfriend said he came home from work on Wednesday and found the child beaten, lying on the floor, with water everywhere, according to investigators.

The mother told police that a "spirit or ghost" led her to do that to Lyla after the child started "acting crazy," Walters said. "Duperon was talking about how she was possessed."

Neighbors expressed their unease regarding what was happening at the residence. They looked out for Lyla even though they never saw any signs of abuse. Although, they did worry about the things they heard next door.

"I would hear (the boyfriend) yelling at her, not only the mother but the child," said one neighbor, Jason Wilhoite. He would shout "'you want something to cry about, I'll give you something to cry about.' I mean who speaks to their kids like that?

"I went to police with videos from my cameras and I showed them the things that I saw was going on, and they told us if we ever saw abuse on the child to let them know."

Now Wilhoite is remembering Lyla as a "fantastic" and "lovable kid" instead of trying to watch out for her.

"Funny kid – jokes, very talkative, cheery, always happy when she was over here," Wilhoite said through tears. 

A probable cause conference for Duperon is scheduled for March 25. 


Wayne mother charged with murdering daughter claimed 8-year-old was possessed by demons

A Wayne woman is accused of causing head and neck injuries that killed her 8-year-old daughter over the weekend.