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April 24, 2014

Parents of infant found dead held on drug charges

SYLVESTER — The parents of an infant who was found dead at their Mississippi home drove with their 2-year-old daughter to Georgia, where they were being 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 also lived at the home, and he told investigators that he woke up hearing loud noises in the hallway, Sheriff Mike Arledge tells WCBI-TV in Columbus, Miss. Roger Studdard said he found his daughter and Harris trying to help the unresponsive baby, according to the sheriff.

When Studdard called 911, the couple ran, according to the sheriff.

"We do have charges on the mother and father, and I think it might be a reason they just panicked and left," Arledge said. He also said methamphetamine was found at the scene.

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

Mississippi authorities thought the couple might be headed to Georgia, and police officers kept watch over U.S. Highway 82 in Sylvester, about 170 miles south of Atlanta as an amber alert was issued for Maliah Harris. There, police stopped the car and the 2-year-old was found unharmed at 12:09 a.m. Thursday, 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.

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

 

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