By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A Cleveland woman accused of dumping her young daughter's body in the city trash after she died in unclear circumstances was sentenced on Thursday to the maximum three years in prison.
India Parker, 35, was charged with tampering with evidence after police were told by an ex-boyfriend that she confessed that she never contacted authorities after her daughter died in 2005 from falling off a book case.
Parker later told a different story to police, saying that in 2006, Kaliyah failed to wake up and was cold to the touch. India Parker said that she then covered the body and left it in bed for about a week before putting her daughter in a garbage bag "in anticipation for garbage day" and eventually placing her in a garbage can for pick-up.
Police interviews with family and friends of Kaliyah determined that the last time anyone other than her mother saw her alive was at her fourth birthday party in 2005. Parker told police that whenever someone would ask the whereabouts of her daughter, she would tell them Kaliyah was with other family members.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Daniel Cleary told Judge Timothy McCormick that Parker continued to collect Social Security benefits for Kaliyah after her death and admitted that, "We will never know what happened."
He went on to ask the judge for the maximum prison time for Parker. "It is rare that a case shocks us the way that this one does. Someone got away with murder in this case, but we can't prove it because there is no body," Cleary said.
At one point during the court proceedings, McCormick said he did not believe Parker's story of putting the child out with the trash and pleaded with Parker to "tell us what happened." Parker said she didn't know where her daughter was.
Parker later apologized for what she called a "lapse in judgment" for not calling the police after Kaliyah's death, and McCormick again asked Parker if Kaliyah was alive somewhere.
"God forbid if she is in harm's way and alive," McCormick said. Parker then confirmed that she put her daughter's body out with the trash.
Parker has three surviving children ages 8 to 17 years old, but none of them are in her custody. Parker lost custody of Kaliyah at birth but regained custody from the girl's paternal grandmother. Kaliyah's father is in prison.
Amber Hill, Kaliyah's paternal aunt, told the court she saw Parker in 2005 at a club, "continuing with life as if nothing had ever happened" and admonished her for her actions. "She threw Kaliyah in a garbage can like trash," Hill added.
(Reporting By Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski)