Father admits to fatally punching 5-month-old daughter, police say

Baby Kali found at home where Markeith Loyd was captured, records show

Photo does not have a caption

ORLANDO, Fla. – The father of a 5-month-old girl has been charged in her death after police said the infant's mother discovered her unconscious inside an abandoned home in the Carver Shores neighborhood of Orlando on Thursday. In an otherwise unrelated case, it is the same home where double murderer suspect Markeith Loyd was found hiding earlier this year.

The family was seeking shelter at the house at 1157 Lescot Lane with Castell's mother after they lost power during Hurricane Irma, records show.

The girl's mother called 911 Sept. 13 after she found her 5-month-old daughter not breathing, police said. After attempting CPR on the child without success, paramedics took the baby to Arnold Palmer Hospital.

The baby was placed on life support, but a brain scan revealed bleeding in the brain and several skull fractures, according to hospital records. Doctors later told police that they discovered a depression on the baby’s skull, which led them to believe she had been hit, not dropped.

The baby was declared dead Sept. 14 at 9:02 a.m., records show.

An obituary posted on the website of Postell's Mortuary Funeral Home identified the baby as Kali Dream Castell. She has three siblings, according to the obituary. Kali was born on March 23 and died just short of 6 months old.

"She was a sweet and precious baby who will be deeply missed by all who knew her," the obituary read.

Kali's mother told police she had no idea how her daughter received her fatal injuries. The girl’s father, Dekari Castell, 22, initially gave a similar statement to authorities.

An investigation into Castell's background revealed that almost a year earlier the Florida Department of Children and Families investigated Castell because his 4-week-old son had been admitted to a hospital with a broken femur bone. During that investigation, Castell said his son had “squirmed out of his grasp and fell” and he caught the baby by his leg, causing the break.

However, a scan helped doctors determine the femur was likely broken through child abuse. Due to lack of probable case, criminal charges were not filed against Castell.

Fearing Kali had been a victim of child abuse, police asked Castell's mother for help getting a “truthful statement” from Castell. Later, Castell called detectives and said the couple went to his mother's house on Lescot Lane seeking shelter after they lost power during Hurricane Irma. Castell said that while at his mother's home, he dropped Kali on the back of her head after "she squirmed out of his grasp," but that it occurred on Monday, before to the Wednesday 911 call, police said.

During a later interview with police, Kali’s mother said Castell slapped her in the face on Sept. 13 because she was unable to open a window about two hours before she called 911 for her daughter, according to the arrest report. After the abuse, she went to her stepfather’s apartment nearby, and when she returned to the Lescot Lane home, she found Kali unconscious and Castell told her the baby had started choking, police said.

Police said Castell eventually admitted during a third interview with investigators that he punched his daughter's head while he was "highly stressed" because they were without power and his daughter would not stop crying.

Castell said after he hit the baby twice, she became quiet, according to the report. He then said he called the infant's mother and told her to come home right away without telling her what happened.

"Dekari called (her) two more times telling her to hurry, however, he did not call 911 or anyone else asking for help," detectives wrote in the report.

Castell was placed under arrest Monday and booked into the Orange County Jail at 7:45 p.m on one charge of aggravated child abuse. Tuesday evening a first-degree murder charge was also filed against Castell.

During a first appearance Wednesday on his new charges an Orange County judge denied Castell's bond and ordered him not to have any contact with witnesses. Castell will be required to only have supervised contact with his other children if and when he is released.

Investigators made no mention of any relationship the suspect or the baby’s mother had to Loyd.

Loyd, who was wanted in connection with the shooting deaths of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, was found at the home the evening of Jan. 17, bringing a nine-day manhunt to an end.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in January after Loyd's arrest that Lescot Lane home was abandoned. 

According to Orange County property appraiser records the home is owned by Cameron Skeete, who died in 2011. County records show taxes on the home haven't been paid since 2012.

Neighbors told News 6 Tuesday that the house was recently renovated and someone moved in a few months ago.

DCF released a statement about the Kali's death:

"We continue to mourn the loss of Kali and are supporting all those who loved her in any way we can. DCF’s investigation into this tragedy is ongoing and we’re coordinating with law enforcement to hold anyone responsible fully accountable. DCF had no prior interaction with Kali or her mother. It is sickening that anyone would allegedly hurt an innocent child," the department said.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Kali was 6 months old, because of information in the police report. It was later determined Kali was 5 months old when she died.

About the Author:

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Emilee hosts the Edward R. Murrow Award-winning podcast Space Curious. Previously, she was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a web producer at the Naples Daily News.