Infant remains identified, parents arrested in major breakthrough in Columbia Baby Doe case

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Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones along with several detectives on Tuesday announces the arrest of two people connected to the death of an infant whose remains were found in August 2019 near the 1900 block of N. Providence Road behind McKnight Tire Co. The infant has been identified as Samone J. Daniels.
Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones along with several detectives on Tuesday announces the arrest of two people connected to the death of an infant whose remains were found in August 2019 near the 1900 block of N. Providence Road behind McKnight Tire Co. The infant has been identified as Samone J. Daniels.

An infant found dead in a backpack stuffed inside a tire near a Columbia tire retailer in August 2019 was identified Tuesday after a nearly three-year investigation.

Her parents were arrested Tuesday with charges related to her death and abandonment and will be transported to the Boone County Jail, Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said during a news conference at City Hall, announcing a breakthrough in the case.

A letter found June 14 at a local Super 8 hotel tied the investigation together, Jones said.

"I am both honored and humbled to give this precious baby a name: Samone J. Daniels," Jones said, fighting back tears. "We believe she was between four and five months old at the time of her death. We believe she had been in that tire since 2017."

Staffone R. Fountain, 30, of St. Joseph, is charged with first-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse. He was arrested by the St. Joseph Police Department and is in that agency's custody without bond, Jones said.

Lavosha Monique Daniels, 28, of St. Louis, is charged with abandonment of a corpse and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. She was arrested by the U.S. Marshals in St. Louis and is in custody there without bond.

More: Columbia police seek help to identify body of baby

Columbia Assistant Police Chief Jeremiah Hunter points to the location where the body of an infant was found Aug. 15, 2019.
Columbia Assistant Police Chief Jeremiah Hunter points to the location where the body of an infant was found Aug. 15, 2019.

"One of our detectives said it best: 'Our No. 1 goal was to give this child a name and honor her memory,'" Jones said during the community briefing. "That's happened today. ... She was not forgotten, not for a day."

A community member came forward with concerns about the letter, which appeared to have been written by Lavosha Daniels and was intended for the police department, Assistant Police Chief Jeremiah Hunter said Tuesday.

The letter identified the suspects and connected them to the child's remains, though the police did not specify how. The key evidence was in a lost-and-found at the hotel after having been in the possession of a third party. Hunter said that person would not be identified at this time.

"The way it was relayed to me is that one person found (the letter) and it went into basically a drawer," Jones said. "They had read the letter but didn't know the significance of the letter. Another person was told about the letter, and when they were told about the letter, they said, 'That really happened and we have to call the police.'

"That person was encouraged not to call the police, but they did anyway. They knew that something had happened. Obviously, there was press coverage of this when it happened. Because they knew, they knew the significance of that letter.

"... They did the right thing and that took a lot of courage."

More: Columbia police turn to Texas firm to identify baby girl found in 2019

The homicide occurred at a Red Roof Inn in 2017, Jones said. Details concerning the cause of death were not immediately available.

Both suspects have made statements to the police, Jones said.

"Any statement is a valuable statement, whether that confirms the truth or confirms they're not telling the truth," Jones said. "We have investigative leads and we compare the evidence to see the validity of those statements, and we were able to do that."

The body of the child was found Aug. 15, 2019, along the tree line at the edge of the parking lot at McKnight Tire, 1909 N. Providence Road, in north-central Columbia. The remains were discovered by an employee, who then contacted police, Hunter said at that time. An autopsy yielded no additional clues into the discovered remains.

More crime: Police: Man taken to hospital with gunshot wound Monday night in north-central Columbia

The police department announced in September 2020 it was working with a Texas firm called Othram to do genetic testing and analysis on the remains. That partnership helped advance the case before the recent breakthrough, Jones said.

Officers located other children who could have been negatively affected by the suspects. The department knows those children's whereabouts and they are safe, he said.

The ongoing case has weighed on the police department staff, an emotional Jones said.

"Samone had a lot of people pulling for her," he said, adding many members of the department chipped in. "To those who remember Samone, I want to express my condolences for your loss. My hope is that this brings you some type of comfort."

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Infant remains identified, parents arrested in Columbia Baby Doe case