Parents of infant found dead held on drug charges

AP News
Posted: Apr 24, 2014 12:51 PM

SYLVESTER, Ga. (AP) — A couple whose infant daughter was found dead at their home fled from Mississippi, driving with their 2-year-old daughter to Georgia, where they were held Thursday on felony drug warrants, officials in both states said.

Alyssa Harris, 7 months old, was found dead early Wednesday at the Caledonia, Miss., home she shared with sister Maliah, 2, and parents Donald Boyd Harris, 34, and Allison Studdard, 31.

Allison's father, Roger Studdard, also lives at the home, and he told investigators he woke to loud noises and found the couple trying to help their unresponsive baby, said Ryan Rickert of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office.

When Studdard called 911, the couple ran, Rickert said, and when deputies arrived, they found the baby in a basinet.

Methamphetamine found at the scene, Rickert said, and warrants were issued for the couple, though no charges are filed in Alyssa Harris' death.

An autopsy didn't reveal a preliminary cause of death, and there were no signs of trauma, said Greg Merchant, coroner of Lowndes County. A toxicology report is pending.

Harris has family ties in Georgia and an expired license there, according to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. The vehicle they were driving also had Georgia plates. Authorities thought the couple might travel there, and an Amber Alert was issued. Police stopped their vehicle on U.S. Highway 82 in Sylvester, and the 2-year-old was found unharmed at 12:09 a.m. Thursday, Sylvester police Chief Robert Jennings said.

"That was the route that everybody thought they'd take, that would take them through Sylvester," the chief said. "They happened to see the vehicle coming down the road and stopped the vehicle. They surrendered without any problem."

Police were holding Harris and Allison Studdard on felony warrants for possession of methamphetamine in Mississippi. Drugs also were found in the car, with additional charges possible, Jennings said.

Studdard, who was driving, also faces a charge that the 2-year-old girl was not properly restrained in safety belts. Harris was charged with not wearing his safety belt, Jennings said.

The couple's daughter was released into the care of the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, Sylvester police said in a statement. Harris and Studdard were transported to the Worth County Jail and will be extradited to Mississippi, according to the statement.

In Mississippi, Miley said deputies will likely be dispatched Friday to pick up the couple.