Father, woman arrested after 5-year-old dies

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- A Raleigh couple faces child abuse charges after a 5-year-old died in their care.

Raleigh Police Department said Jermaine Rhyne's daughter burned their hands on a space heater on Jan. 8.

According to an arrest warrant, neither Rhyne or Tiffany Valentine were properly watching the girl when the injury happened. Plus, investigators said, neither of them took her to get medical treatment.

The child died on Jan. 21. The child's official cause of death has not been determined yet, but police say the negligence of Rhyne and Valentine played a part in her death.

In court Tuesday, Rhyne broke down in tears when he asked for a bond reduction.

"Have mercy on my soul, please," Rhyne said in court. The judged denied him the bond reduction.

Family members said the girl, who they identified as Jassika Steele, swallowed a suction cup and choked. Ashley Valentine, Tiffany Valentine's cousin, said the girl did not die from the burns on her hands and that Rhyne and Tiffany Valentine were good parents.

"They woke up in the morning to get the kids ready for school and the child was dead," Ashley Valentine said. "What they're doing to this family is tragic."

Both Rhyne and Tiffany Valentine were booked into jail and held on a $100,000 bond. They each face two charges of felony child abuse.

"They didn't even get to bury their child and y'all have them in here on a $100,000 bond," Ashley Valentine said. "They can't even bond out, over something that could have happened to anybody. I'm a mother, and I love my kids."
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