Police say a 5-year-old girl covered in bruises and suffering from internal injuries died after enduring abuse at the hands of a mother who was prone to fits of anger, and physical discipline in the form of rigorous exercise under the direction of a former NFL and Notre Dame running back.
Cierre Wood, 28, and Amy Taylor, 25, are both facing charges of first-degree murder and child abuse and neglect in Clark County, Nevada. Their charges stem from the early April death of Taylor’s daughter, La’Ravah Davis.
Wood, who played at Notre Dame from 2010-2013, was dating and living with Taylor.
According to court documents, the investigation began the night of April 9 when first responders were notified of a little girl in cardiac arrest at Summerlin Hospital.
Officials said the girl, later identified as La’Ravah, was stiff and cold to the touch. Despite efforts to save her life, she was pronounced dead at the hospital at 7:24 p.m.
Investigators immediately believed her death to be suspicious in nature, court documents said. Wood and Taylor were questioned by police at the hospital, but grew uncooperative and attempted to leave.
Both suspects were detained, and an investigator from the coroner’s office was called to the hospital to conduct a body exam on La’Ravah, court documents said. The examination revealed a long list of injuries including bruises, scratches, signs of internal injuries, a petechial hemorrhage and what appeared to be a bite mark.
Wood and Taylor were taken to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for questioning when the medical examination was complete.
Taylor told police she met Wood six months ago on a dating website, and the couple moved in together after about a month of dating.
When asked how La’Ravah is disciplined at home, Taylor said the she was spanked with a hand or belt. Taylor also said her daughter was stubborn, defiant, prone to talking back and that getting her to behave was a “constant struggle.”
Taylor told police that she gave Wood permission to discipline La’Ravah, and stated that he prefers to use exercise as opposed to spanking because La’Ravah is not his child.
‘I (expletive) up and now I don’t have a child now’
Taylor told police she was at the store when she got a call from Wood who urged her to come home right away because something wasn’t right.
Wood told Taylor that he was having La’Ravah do sit-ups when the girl “smacked her head” as she leaned back, court documents said. The girl was unresponsive, and 911 was called.
Taylor also told police that La’Ravah had been complaining about having chest pains in the days leading up to her death, but she was never taken to the doctor.
Court documents said after further questioning, Taylor admitted to sitting on her daughter’s chest and abdomen as a form of punishment. She then stated that Wood would poke the girl in the chest or abdomen to elicit a response form her.
Taylor said bruising may have also developed as a result of her grabbing La’Ravah by the arm when she misbehaved. When asked if the discipline may have accidentally caused more serious injury to La’Ravah, Taylor is quoted as saying “It has to be yes,” because La’Ravah is no longer here.
Taylor ended the interview by requesting an attorney, but court documents said she continued to talk. She is quoted as saying, “I honestly feel like when I sat on her I (expletive) her up … I (expletive) up and now I don’t have a child now.”
Wood spoke to police and said that Taylor was easily frustrated and would often throw “fits” that involved hitting herself or talking to herself when she was angry, court documents said. Wood said that Taylor didn’t abuse La’Ravah during these fits, and that discipline was limited to spanking.
He said he had no knowledge of Taylor sitting on La’Ravah, but he was aware of the chest pains.
Wood stated he used exercise as “learning through fun” when La’Ravah didn’t want to do her school work, court documents said. When the girl misbehaved during study time, Wood made her run sprints, do sit-ups and wall squats.
He said that he was trying to help La’Ravah get on the right path because she was “chunky.” Wood added that his ability to discipline La’Ravah was limited because she was not his daughter, stating “even if I want to snatch her up by her (expletive) I can’t do it. That’s not my child.”
Wood added that he has felt that urge multiple times, and that spanking would not faze La’Ravah because she was “tough.”
Wood said on the day of La’Ravah’s death, he made her do sit-ups because she didn’t want to do her school work. La’Ravah struggled to complete her sit-ups, so Wood made her run from one wall to the other before making her do five more sit-ups.
Wood said La’Ravah fell back and hit her head on the floor during the second set of sit-ups. He told police that he thought the little girl was faking until she struggled to walk after the sit-ups.
Wood splashed cold water on La’Ravah’s face, called 911 and called Taylor to tell her to come home. Court documents said Wood was asked about the bruising on La’Ravah, and he said it was the result of the girl falling at the park or at home.
He maintained that he and Taylor did not abuse the girl, and that La’Ravah bruised easily because she may have been suffering from an undiagnosed blood disorder.
Wood and Taylor were arrested and booked into the Clark County Jail in Las Vegas. They have since posted bond, according to online court records.
Career at Notre Dame
Wood was rated the 10th-best player nationally in the 2009 recruiting class by Sporting News, and he rushed for 4,248 yards and 54 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Santa Clara High School in Oxnard, Calif., west of Los Angeles. As a senior he also made 33 tackles and had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries while playing defense for coach Fran Fredette.
Wood was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
At Notre Dame, Wood produced more than 3,100 all-purpose yards in his final three seasons, including 1,102 rushing yards and nine touchdowns as a junior. That marked the 16th season of 1,000 or more rushing yards in Notre Dame history.
He was suspended for two games at the start of 2012, losing his primary starting job to Theo Riddick, but still managed 742 rushing yards and four touchdowns while making four starts for a 12-1 team that lost in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama.
Wood rushed for a season-high 118 yards and two scores in a 41-3 win over Miami at Soldier Field as a senior and later that October broke a career-long 67-yard touchdown run at Oklahoma.
Tony Alford, Wood’s position coach and recruiting coordinator at Notre Dame and now assistant head coach at Ohio State, declined to comment in-depth on Wood and his college career “out of respect” for those involved in what he termed an “extremely, extremely, extremely tragic event.”
Attempts to reach several former teammates of Wood’s at Notre Dame were unsuccessful.