Death of Texas Girl in Refrigerator Ruled Homicide

The death of a 9-year-old Houston girl whose body was left in a refrigerator for six months has been ruled a homicide.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said Thursday that Ayahna Comb died from malnutrition and dehydration and suffered from other ailments such as a bone infection. A neighbor called police after Ayahna's 5-year-old sister and two friends discovered the body in June when looking for a cheese stick.

Medical examiner's office spokeswoman Tricia Bentley said the death was ruled a homicide because of evidence that the girl was neglected. She said the six-month delay was because of the girl's age and additional testing needed to determine her cause of death.

"It usually takes a little bit longer to classify a child's death," Bentley said. "Doctors look for signs of child abuse, and that takes longer."

Court records show that Ayahna's mother, Amber Keyes, said she tried to perform CPR on her daughter, who had cerebral palsy and needed a wheelchair to get around, after finding her unresponsive on Jan. 29. When her efforts failed, the mother "panicked," according to records.

A Child Protective Services worker said Keyes acknowledged wrapping the body in a blanket and putting it in a refrigerator drawer.

Keyes also acknowledged not taking the girl, who had cerebral palsy, to the doctor for two years and collecting Social Security benefits in her daughter's name after her death, according to court records.

Family members said Ayahna was bottle fed. Investigators said Keyes told them her daughter was "always difficult to feed," more so toward the end of January.

A Houston Police Department spokeswoman told The Houston Chronicle the agency expects to file unspecified charges against Keyes. She declined to comment to the newspaper.

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