Police have identified the mother as 29-year-old Michelle Harpster, who was from Florida. ABC11 has obtained court documents that show she was in a custody battle with the child's father.
Raleigh police said they were called to the Super 8 motel in the 3800 block of New Bern Ave. around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday because employees said they had a guest who wouldn't leave.
Inside, they found a 2-year-old boy named Joshua deceased and Harpster injured with cuts to her arms and legs in an apparent suicide attempt. She was hospitalized. Police said they had a warrant to charge her with murder when her condition improves.
A motel staff member, who didn't want to be identified, said Harpster had lived there for some time. She said the woman would often sing to her child, and employees soon became close to the boy.
"It's been very emotional for us," said the employee. "They stayed here for like three months. So, everybody got kind of attached seeing him every day, seeing him play. So it's been real hard for us here at Super 8."
Others said Harpster showed serious signs of exhaustion by caring for the child by herself.
"I just knew she was going through some tough times right now," said Mariah Hill. "She said she had needed help with her son. She really couldn't get help, or help from her family. And she was struggling."