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Mom charged with manslaughter after burning baby in scalding water, police say

Pamela Black was arrested after a months-long investigation.

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lakeland mother has been arrested in the death of her baby girl.

Pamela Black, 21, is charged with aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter in the death of 11-month-old Serenity Gunter.

According to Lakeland police, it all started around 6:30 p.m. on October 23, 2018, at the family's apartment, where Black said she gave her daughter a bath in the kitchen sink. Black said she gave Gunter toys to play in the water, then began cleaning the kitchen countertop before turning around when she heard her daughter whining, investigators say.

"Black stated she turned around and then noticed the hot water was on and she stated that her daughter must have 'bumped it,'" Lakeland police wrote in an email. "Black stated she turned the water off, grabbed the child and wrapped her in a towel."

Black and her husband told police they put Aloe and baby powder on the child's burns before driving the little girl to Lakeland Regional Health approximately 1.5 hours after the burns happened, according to law enforcement. Police say the child suffered third-degree burns over 50 percent of her body, and medical staff ordered the baby be transported to Tampa General Hospital for more intensive care.

The baby died around 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 6.

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy determined the child had a "brain bleed" and a burn pattern that suggested she was "intentionally compressed inward," according to police. Detectives say medical professionals gave statements about the burn patterns that raised questions about Black's version of events.

"Based on the physical evidence from Serenity Gunter’s body, detectives believe these burns were purposely inflicted and her body was manipulated prior to being immersed into scalding water in the kitchen sink," police said.

Investigators say the autopsy also suggests the girl was "purposely shaken" around the time of the burns.

Black was arrested Tuesday in Polk City. She is being held without bond at the Polk County Jail.

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