Woman, Boyfriend Arrested in Death of Her 7-Year-Old Daughter

By City News Service
City News Service
City News Service
July 6, 2022 Updated: July 6, 2022

SAN FERNANDO, Calif.—A Hawthorne man who was arrested in connection with the death of his girlfriend’s 7-year-old daughter—whom authorities said died after falling from a moving vehicle onto the northbound Golden State (5) Freeway—was charged July 6 with a misdemeanor count of child abuse.

Michael Aaron Branch, 39, pleaded not guilty in a San Fernando courtroom to one count of child abuse under circumstances or conditions other than great bodily injury or death.

The girl was fatally injured at about 3:40 a.m. July 2 near Weldon Canyon Road, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported.

Officers arrived at the scene after receiving a 911 call from a motorist reporting that a vehicle “had struck an unknown stationary object, which was blocking the roadway …,” according to a CHP statement.

“It was determined that the unknown object was a child which had been struck by several vehicles. After initial investigations, it was determined the 7-year-old female child fell out of the moving 1999 Lincoln Navigator through … an open window, and as a result, sustained fatal injuries. At this time the circumstances behind how she fell out are under investigation,” the CHP reported.

The CHP announced that the girl’s mother, Veronda Gladney, 28, of Lancaster, and the mother’s boyfriend, Michael Branch were arrested for suspicion of child endangerment.

The girl’s name was withheld, pending notification of her next of kin.

According to the CHP, Gladney was the driver of the Lincoln, and Branch and the girl were passengers.

It was not immediately clear if the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had made a filing decision involving the girl’s mother.

Branch was released late Wednesday afternoon on his own recognizance, according to jail records.

Anyone with information on the case was urged to call the CHP Newhall Area Office at 661-600-1600.