Fugitives in 4-year-old's killing caught in Georgia as grisly details released in death

SUMPTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A Michigan woman and her boyfriend, charged with murder in the grisly death of her 4-year-old daughter, were captured Tuesday evening in Georgia after a manhunt that involved U.S. marshals.

Candice Renea Diaz, 24, and Brad Edward Fields, 28, both of Sumpter Township, were taken into custody near Lake Park, not far from the Georgia-Florida state line. Both are being held on fugitive warrants in the Lowndes County Jail.

>> Related story: Mom, boyfriend sought in burning, beating death of 4-year-old

Diaz and Fields are charged with felony murder, second-degree murder, first-degree child abuse and torture in the New Year's Day homicide of Diaz's daughter, Gabrielle "Gabby" Barrett. The Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday that the Washtenaw County medical examiner called the girl's death the "worst child death case" he'd seen in 27 years on the job.

The Free Press gave some of the chilling details of the case, including the extent of Gabby's burns, which were found on her legs, elbows and buttocks. Court documents stated that the girl was burned so badly that one of her big toes fell off, and that investigators found some of her skin in the bathtub drain.

"Gabrielle had burns all over her body and bruising to her entire body," a court document read, according to the newspaper.

A police news release issued Monday stated that Sumpter County deputies and paramedics went to the couple's mobile home shortly before 11 a.m. on New Year's Day following a 911 call reporting an unresponsive child. When first responders arrived, they found family members attempting CPR on Gabby, who had obvious, severe burns on her arms and legs.

The girl was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, where she was pronounced dead. The medical examiner ruled the girl’s death a homicide two days later.

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Gabby’s autopsy showed multiple traumatic injuries on her body, as well as evidence of old injuries consistent with ongoing child abuse, police officials said.

Warrants were issued for the arrest of Diaz, who had custody of Gabby, and Fields, who were nowhere to be found. U.S. marshals from the Detroit field office were called in to aid in the search for the fugitives.

Gabby’s 1-year-old half-sister was also taken into the custody of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services workers.

The Free Press reported that Diaz gave investigators a statement on what she said happened to her daughter the night before the girl died.

"The mother claimed she ran Gabrielle's bath and placed Gabrielle into the tub after she filled the tub halfway," the court documents said. "The mother then claimed she left Gabrielle alone in the tub and went to the kitchen to make pancakes."

Diaz said that when she returned, Gabrielle was under the surface of the water. The mother said she pulled her from the tub, at which time the girl began to vomit.

“The mother said she called Brad … to the bathroom for help,” the court documents said. “According to the mother, Gabrielle continued to vomit, and Fields attempted to provide CPR.”

Diaz told authorities that they waited more than a half-hour to call 911. Officers discovered cocaine while searching the couple’s mobile home.

Investigators also found guns on the premises, and the house was filled with animal waste, investigators previously told WDIV in Detroit.

Family, friends and members of the public celebrated the couple’s capture on social media.

“They caught them!” one woman wrote. “I wish they would’ve been caught by some other people first who would’ve tortured them and put them through all the hell they put that sweet baby through. But at least they are not just running free now.”

“I am so sorry to the whole Barrett family. Thank goodness the monsters are in custody,” another woman wrote. “I don’t know what else to say. I am just speechless. My heart hurts for all you guys. Love y’all. #JusticeForGabby.”

Gabby’s grandmother described the little girl as a “ball of joy” who always had a smile on her face.

A GoFundMe page initially set up to help her family bury her has since been removed, but a second one has been established. The second page makes clear that donations will be used by Gabby's father, Kyle Barrett, to lay his daughter to rest.

Barrett spoke to WJBK about his daughter Sunday night at a candlelight vigil held in her memory.

"She didn't have to pass the way she did, but I hope we get justice for her really soon," Barrett said. "I know we may not have a lot of information at all, but it just hurts."

Barrett told the Free Press that he last saw his daughter in September, just before turning himself in on an outstanding warrant. He was released from jail two days after his daughter died.

"I got to give her a kiss and a hug and say I loved her," Barrett told the newspaper of that last visit.