Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2018

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Mom accused of hiding girl in duffel bag had obstructed police before

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Aisha Yvonne Thomas

The left side of the young girl’s diminutive head was wounded and bruised, her lifeless body cold to a police officer’s touch.

Three years, seven months and 21 days after her birth, Dejah Hunt’s body lay inside a black duffel bag found in a closet of her family’s apartment, wrapped in plastic bags.

Dejah, who died on Aug. 23, was identified on Thursday by the Clark County coroner’s office, which deemed her death a homicide by blunt force trauma.

Not long before officers made the dreadful find, her 29-year-old mother, Aisha Yvonne Thomas, had told Metro Police that her child had vanished.

Dejah and her three siblings were walking alongside their mother as they headed to an east valley convenience store, the woman initially said.

Nearby, they encountered a woman with whom Thomas stopped to chat, she’d said.

When Thomas turned around, she realized she’d lost Dejah, she said to officers, according to a Metro arrest affidavit.

A search commenced shortly before 9 p.m. to the area of Lake Mead and Hollywood boulevards, police said.

But the search to find a healthy and safe child, officers later learned, would be fruitless because Thomas was lying, and her deceit began to unravel.

Dejah had not accompanied her three siblings and mother to the store, police said.

“Is there a chance Dejah is still in the apartment?” police asked Thomas, who handed them the key to the unit.

An officer focused on a “wet and moldy” smell that came from the master bedroom, inside a closet, enclosed in a duffel bag, police said.

Tearing through white plastic bags, the smell became more prominent. That’s when the officer realized what police had stumbled upon.

Thomas was subsequently handcuffed.

She then offered a new account to detectives: About 2 a.m. that day, Dejah had peed her pants, angering Thomas, who backhanded the left side of the girl’s head, according to the affidavit.

Dejah fell, cried and would not stop doing so, she said.

Thomas then gave her water to try to quiet her, leaving the apartment for a few minutes, only to arrive to find Dejah wrapped in a blanket in a bedroom, she said.

She was not breathing and Thomas “panicked,” she said. So, she grabbed multiple trash bags, wrapped the tiny body and placed her in the duffel bag.

“Thomas admitted to wrapping (Dejah) to conceal the smell,” according to the affidavit.

Records from the Clark County Department of Family Services show that the agency on June 2017 had received allegations of child abuse and neglect involving Dejah’s immediate family.

But after “unsuccessful attempts” to contact the family and “insufficient information” about the allegations, the case was closed, according to the public document.

A Clark County spokesman could not be reached to explain what the agency deems “insufficient information to support allegations.”

Thomas’ three other children have been turned over to child welfare officials, police said.

Dejah’s father, who the Associated Press identified as Don Edward Hunt Jr., 30, was in jail at the time of the slaying.

Four days prior, he was arrested on a fugitive warrant out of California by Metro officers investigating a domestic violence complaint at the same apartments, police said.

Thomas has had a couple of run-ins with the law, court records show.

Last August, a few days after Clark County officials received the allegation of abuse, Metro responded to a domestic disturbance at an apartment complex near Maryland Parkway and Flamingo Road, records show.

Officers made entry after hearing yelling and screaming from the apartment, and inside they encountered a “loud and animated” Thomas, who would not obey commands to sit still, according to a partial court document.

She was cited for making a false statement to obstruct police, records show. The following month, she was arrested on allegations of theft and writing checks with no sufficient funds.

She was in the midst of that case when she was again booked last week at the Clark County Detention Center, this time on a murder count.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.