Mother Charged With Murdering Toddler After Boy Found Dead in Yard

February 9, 2019 Updated: February 9, 2019

A New Jersey woman was charged with murder on Feb. 9 after law enforcement officers found the remains of her young son in their yard just hours after she reported him missing.

Nakira Griner, 24, called the Bridgeton Police Department on Feb. 8 around 6:36 p.m. and said that her child, Daniel Griner Jr., nearly 2 years old, had been abducted.

Officers responded along with bloodhounds and searched for the boy. They found his remains in the yard of Griner’s Bridgeton house off Woodland Drive at 3 a.m. on Saturday.

Griner was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, second-degree desecration of human remains, and fourth-degree tampering with evidence, according to the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office.

She was booked into the Cumberland County Jail pending a detention hearing.

“No further information will be released at this time as the case remains under investigation,” the county prosecutor’s office said in a statement released Saturday morning. “No additional arrests are expected at this time.”

According to Griner’s Facebook page, she is married. In her final post before her arrest, she said that she had “two beautiful children” and that she loved her husband. In the past, she had posted several pictures showing the kids.

nakira griner
Nakira Griner in a file photo. (Nakira Griner/Facebook)

The Terre Haute Police Department launched an investigation after finding a 14-month-old boy at Union Hospital with a split tongue, swollen scrotum, and severe bruises all over his body. The tip of the boy’s tongue was also missing.

When a police officer asked Holly Cota, the child’s mother, about the injuries, she claimed the boy fell out of his crib multiple times and thought that the split tongue came after he bit his tongue.

As for the swollen scrotum, she said that her son “must have straddled the toy box when he fell, accusing damage to his scrotum,” according to the probable cause affidavit, which was obtained by WTHI.

child's tongue split in two
Scott Edwards, the boyfriend of Holly Cota, was arrested for allegedly abusing Cota’s 14-month-old child. (Terre Haute Police Department)

The child was rushed to the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. A doctor there told officers that the split tongue was not caused by the boy’s teeth because the teeth don’t run in that direction.

“She [the doctor] said that the cut appeared clean and was not torn which indicated that some type of tool, possibly scissors, were used,” the affidavit stated. “She also said that a piece at the tip of the tongue was missing.”

The other injuries, the doctor said, indicated trauma and not accidental falls.

Cota later told officers that her boyfriend, Scott Edwards, was watching the boy when he was injured, reported the Tribune-Star. She said she was afraid to take the child for medical treatment but eventually did.

Cota was arrested on obstruction of justice charges while Edwards was arrested and charged with aggravated battery, battery, and neglect of a dependent.

Holly Cota was arrested on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly lying to investigators who were looking into how her toddler got a split tongue and other injuries. (Terre Haute Police Department)

Child Abuse

According to a report published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (pdf), approximately 3.5 million children nationwide in 2016 were the subjects of at least one maltreatment reports to authorities. ”

Child abuse is one of the nation’s most serious concerns,” the authors of the report wrote in the introduction. About 17 percent of those reports were substantiated; the department said that there were an estimated 676,000 victims of child abuse and neglect, or 9.1 victims per 1,000 children.

Children in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 24.8 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population. About three-quarters of the cases were neglect while about 18 percent were physical abuse. Some children suffered from multiple forms of maltreatment.

Of the perpetrators of the abuse, more than four-fifths were between the ages of 18 and 44 and more than half were women.

From NTD News

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber