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Father charged with murder in baby's death

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A Stockbridge mother said her baby's recent death has left her angry, hurt and struggling for answers as to how the child's father -- the man accused of killing her -- could have committed the crime.

Valerie Kelley said her three-month-old baby, Aliyah Caesar, had only been in the care of 28-year-old Ron Courtney Caesar for about 10 minutes, when the baby began to have trouble breathing. Aliyah died Thursday at Henry Medical Center. Ron Caesar is charged with murder and cruelty to children in the case, and is being held without bond in the Henry County Jail.

The incident which allegedly led to the baby's death, took place inside the child's home, at 468 Brunswick Circle, according to Police Capt. Jason Bolton.

"[She] was found not breathing and unresponsive," said Bolton. "The child was later pronounced dead at the hospital." An autopsy the following day determined that Aliyah had suffered "numerous injuries," which led to her death.

Kelley said detectives told her Aliyah was a victim of Shaken-Baby Syndrome, which occurs when a child is shaken in a violent manner, causing a whiplash motion. "There was evidence of prior abuse that happened about a month before," said Kelley. "From what I was told, she was shaken so bad that her brain bled. She had hemorrhages in her eyes, a hole in her liver, and old scars on her ribs. I saw her autopsy reports, and I said, 'What the [expletive] is this?' Who could kill a baby like that? I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Kelley, 38, was visibly distraught when discussing the case Monday afternoon. She said when Aliyah went to sleep Thursday night, there was "nothing out of the ordinary" about the child's behavior. "About 11 p.m., I asked Ron to wake her up so I could give her medicine, feed her and put her to bed, so I could sleep with her," said Kelley. "I fed her two ounces of milk. Her eyes were wide open, and she was staring at me."

The mother said Aliyah fell asleep shortly thereafter, and sat on Ron Caesar's lap while Kelley took a shower. When she got out about 10 minutes later, said Kelley, Caesar told her something was wrong with the baby. "I heard a loud, raspy sound, and it was Aliyah trying to breathe," said Kelley. "I took her from him and I was like, 'Oh my God, Aliyah, please don't leave me.' I was running around in circles, and I was so confused."

Kelley called 911 and administered CPR on the child while waiting for help to arrive. Minutes later, she watched as emergency-medical technicians used a defibrillator on Aliyah several times in an attempt to revive her.

Kelley said Caesar remained quiet throughout the episode. "I never heard him say a word," she said.

Aliyah was transported to Henry Medical Center, where doctors reportedly worked on her for more than two hours. Kelley said she was eventually forced to make the difficult decision to end her daughter's suffering. "I told them, 'That's enough,'" said Kelley. "She already had no brain function, her lungs had collapsed and her kidneys failed. The only thing that kept going was her heart. I [told doctors], 'The only thing I want is for you to take the breathing tube out of her, and let her die in my arms.'"

Ron Caesar was arrested and charged in the case Friday. Prior to the incident, he and Kelley had been together for three years, according to Kelly. Kelley said Caesar, who -- she said -- got out of the Army in 2006, had been involved in physical altercations with her and her son in May, but nothing that would indicate a tendency toward violence overall.

"I had no clue," she said. "My kids didn't have any clue. None of us could tell you there was a sign that anything was wrong."

Kelley said police told her much of the damage to Aliyah had likely been done earlier on the day in question, when the baby and her 15-month-old sibling were allegedly alone with Caesar at the house.

Joel Wilcox, 40, lives down the street from where the incident took place, and came to Kelley's home Monday to offer his condolences. Wilcox said he is troubled by the news of Aliyah's death, and added that his "heart goes out" to the family, as well as the suspect.

"I almost cried when I heard," said Wilcox. "It's so sad when a child loses their life. It's unnecessary. It's forgivable, but it's not excusable."

A date for a court hearing for Ron Caesar has not been set.