GASTONIA, N.C. — Investigators revealed a heat-related illness likely led to the death of a 14-month-old girl in a Gastonia home last summer.
Gastonia Police arrested the girl's mother, Emoni Burnett, on felony involuntary manslaughter last week.
During a Tuesday afternoon court appearance, Burnett told a judge she would never harm her child.
"I loved my baby. Okay? I swear I loved my baby," Burnett said as tears streamed down her face. "I'm going to miss her joyful spirit, her laugh, everything."
Gastonia Police said they found 14-month-old Ava unresponsive in a closet in Burnett's boyfriend's Gastonia home last August.
Assistant District Attorney Debbie Gulledge said by the time Ava arrived at the hospital, her body temperature was in excess of 100 degrees.
"Which is some indication of essentially an overheating-related death," Gulledge said. "Very similar to a hot car death, but circumstances were a hot-house death."
Gastonia Police took out an arrest warrant for Burnett in October, but she had moved to Florida.
Officers found and arrested her last week.
"I couldn't stay at my mom's house because Ava's dresses were there, her toys," Burnett said. "It was too much for me mentally. I just need[ed] a change of scenery."
Judge David Phillips ordered Burnett remain in jail under a $50,000 bond.
Gulledge said the investigation continues, and a formal autopsy report is pending. She said arraignment is scheduled for next month.