Missouri mother charged with murdering toddler son

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AFFTON, Mo (AP) - A suburban St. Louis woman who claimed her 13-month-old son had vanished from his crib was charged Wednesday with murdering him, after prosecutors say she admitted beating him because he wouldn't stop crying.

Shelby Dasher, 20, was arrested less than 16 hours after she reported her son, Tyler, was missing. People walking their dog found Tyler Dasher's body on Tuesday near a cemetery about a mile from his home.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said Dasher admitted to police that she repeatedly hit her son because he was crying and "wouldn't lay down, wouldn't go back to sleep." He said she also told police she disposed of her son's body.

"Raising children can be frustrating. There are a myriad of ways to handle that," McCulloch said. "This isn't one of them."

McCulloch revealed little else about the boy's death, except to say it appeared he hadn't been struck with objects or weapons. He declined to say when investigators believe the child died.

Police said when Dasher called to report her son missing, she told them she overslept that morning and discovered him gone from his crib when she awoke. His body was found within about 100 feet of a busy road.

Dasher was being held on $500,000 cash bond. The state's electronic court system did not list an attorney for her Wednesday afternoon, and a county jail worker declined to convey a request to Dasher seeking comment.

Before the charges were announced, detectives and uniformed officers came and went Wednesday from the family's small frame home, which is in a working class neighborhood. Yellow police tape surrounded the home, and a large Halloween pumpkin was on the front porch.

A long, wide area near the cemetery also was cordoned off. A cluster of young adults nearby cried and hugged as they watched officers mill around the scene. It wasn't clear if they were relatives of Tyler, and they declined interview requests.

"It says to me it's a pretty sick person," St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said. "Anybody that would take a child and leave a child in a wooded area in that condition needs to be dealt with severely by the criminal justice system."

Johnny Ellington, whose 24-year-old son, Joe Ellington, is Tyler's father, said he knew little about the investigation beyond what had been reported in the news. He said his family had been questioned by police and that the family advised Joe not to talk to the media.

Johnny Ellington, 65, said his son and Dasher were never married, and that his family saw Tyler frequently.

"He was just a wonderful baby and beautiful boy," he said.

Neighbors described the area where the Dashers live as quiet, the people close. But several neighbors said they knew little about Dasher or her son because the family had only moved into their rented home a little over a year ago.

"Everybody here kind of knows each other, but not them," said Rick Angeles, 28, who lives across the street with his wife and 3-year-old son. Angeles said a lot of young people were in and out of the Dasher home frequently but he never saw anything that concerned him.

Tim Adair was visiting his sister's home three houses down from the Dashers. He said Tyler's grandmother came over Tuesday, distraught, and told them the boy was missing. She said she had no idea where he could be.

"My niece gave her a hug and talked with her and prayed with her," Adair said. "I can't imagine how difficult this would be."


Associated Press writer Maria Sudekum Fisher in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.


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