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Woman Pleads Guilty in Toddler Granddaughter’s Death Found in Cooler, Faces 15-20 Years in Prison

A 45-year-old woman is set to serve between 15 and 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to the death of her toddler granddaughter, whose body was discovered in a cooler.

WXIX-TV reports, that LaTonya Austin entered the plea on December 13 for charges of gross abuse of a corpse, involuntary manslaughter, and tampering with evidence. This follows her indictment in June 2021 on charges of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault, one count of tampering with evidence, and one count of gross abuse of a corpse for the death of 2-year-old Zaila Lee.

Originally facing the possibility of life in prison, Austin’s guilty plea comes with a sentence of 15 to 20 years, with 948 days credited for time served.

Zaila Lee’s death was determined to be a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to the head, along with “deep lacerations” near her hip and a broken arm. Austin informed investigators that one of the other children in her home was responsible, claiming that the child “shook and cut her up with scissors.”

According to WXIX, Austin then wrapped Lee’s body in multiple trash bags and left her in a cooler on her property. The child had been deceased for approximately a month before the police discovered her remains.

Upon Austin’s indictment, then-Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters expressed profound shock at the severity of the crime, stating, “It is impossible to comprehend the depravity of an individual able to not only strike a 2-year-old so hard to cause her death but to then attempt to conceal that crime by stuffing the child’s lifeless body into a cooler. As a father and a grandfather, I am sick.”

Rhiannon Ingle
Rhiannon Ingle
Journalist at the Medialinker Group
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