Two people were arrested in connection with a 3-year-old girl found dead inside a vehicle parked on the side of a Northern California road on Wednesday, officials said.
Angela Phakhin, 27, and Untwan Smith, 46, were taken into custody on suspicion of child endangerment and conspiracy around 12:30 p.m. after a police officer found them in their Toyota RAV4 along Rod Beaudry Drive in Rancho Cordova, according to a statement from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
The officer approached the car after noticing it was parked facing the wrong direction, deputies said.
Although Phakhin and Smith were its registered owners, the officer uncovered an outstanding warrant for Smith's arrest in Arkansas.
While searching the vehicle, police discovered the toddler unresponsive under some blankets in the beat seat, according to sheriff's officials.
The girl did not show obvious signs of trauma but was pronounced dead at the scene.
“They put the child in a risky situation that most likely caused her death,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Turnbull said. “That’s why they were arrested for the child endangerment at this point.”
The exact cause of the 3-year-old's death has not been determined, pending an autopsy report from the county coroner's office.
Phakhin was her biological mother, while Smith is Phakhin's boyfriend, investigators said.
Detectives believe the couple came to the Sacramento area in February and have since been living out of their car in various locations throughout the county.
“I know they had enough time to apply for and to get benefits, to get food stamps,” Turnbull said.
Smith had an outstanding warrant out of Arkansas for fraud, according to records obtained by KTLA sister station KTXL in Sacramento.
Phakhin’s brother told KTLA sister station KFSM in Arkansas that the couple left the state a few months ago. They were told Phakhin and Smith were headed for Texas, but had no idea where they were until they learned Phakhin’s daughter was dead.
Investigators expect to file evidence from the case with the county District Attorney's office, who will determine charges once coroner's officials establish a cause and manner of death.
Phakhin and Smith are being held in county jail, each on $1 million bail, deputies said. They are scheduled to appear in court on Friday.