ADELANTO, Calif. — Samiah Downing went through unimaginable pain in her short four years of life.
The girl, who was visiting with her father and his girlfriend in Adelanto, California, was found dead Dec. 27, 2012, in a shallow grave in the San Bernardino County desert. She had been brutally beaten, burned with scalding water and denied water as punishment, authorities said.
An autopsy revealed that her cause of death was dehydration, San Bernardino County prosecutors said. She was also severely malnourished.
“At the time of her death, Samiah’s weight placed her in the fifth percentile for her age,” prosecutors said in a news release. “Samiah had been in the 50th percentile for her weight just six months before her death.”
The girl’s father, Ronald Dean Greer Jr., 29, and his girlfriend, Bianca Annie Mae Stanch, 27, were sentenced Friday to serve 32 years to life in prison for murder. Stanch’s cousin, Rayshawn Laurice Stanch, pleaded guilty earlier this year to his own participation in the crime.
“Unfortunately, because of the actions of her father and his girlfriend, Samiah wasn’t here to tell her own story to the jurors,” said Justin Crocker, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case. “Thankfully, the evidence at trial told the tragic story for her. Samiah was betrayed by the people closest to her, and they have now been held accountable for that betrayal.”
‘An extreme dislike for Samiah’
The case against Greer, Bianca Stanch and Rayshawn Stanch began in late December 2012 after San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies received a tip that Samiah had not been seen in a while. Detectives interviewed Greer and Bianca Stanch and searched the couple’s home.
“At the conclusion of the interviews, investigators were led to an area in the desert south of Baker,” authorities said at the time, according to NBC Los Angeles. “A shallow grave was located where the 4-year-old’s remains were recovered.”
All three defendants were charged with murder, torture and assault on a child, causing death.
Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details.
Prosecutors detailed the grim life Samiah led in her father’s home, where she was subjected to daily beatings at the hands of Bianca Stanch, who was then 19 years old.
Stanch hated the girl, authorities said.
“According to witnesses, Stanch had an extreme dislike for Samiah and treated her poorly,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Greer, 21, did nothing to protect his child, an allegation he denied at trial.
“Both Stanch and Greer also routinely used a denial of water as a form of punishment,” according to prosecutors’ statement.
Witnesses at the couple’s trial last October testified that Greer and Stanch sometimes duct-taped Samiah’s wrists and ankles and left her that way overnight so she could not get water. They installed a deadbolt on her bedroom door so they could lock it from the outside.
“On one occasion, Samiah was able to get out to the kitchen where she drank the only liquid she could find, which was a cleaning solution,” prosecutors said.
On the day before her death, which authorities believe happened on Dec. 15, 2012, Samiah was beaten and forced to stand in a corner for eight hours. The following day, the abuse continued when Bianca Stanch beat the girl with a belt and cords.
“Stanch then poured a pot of boiling water on Samiah’s back and chest,” prosecutors said. “Samiah was also denied water to drink during these final days of her life.”
The night she died, Samiah, who had become “lethargic and sleepy,” was locked in her bedroom and left with Rayshawn Stanch while his cousin and Greer went out to dinner, authorities said. When the couple returned, they found Samiah dead.
The trio took the toddler’s body out to the desert and buried her.
The trial for Greer and Bianca Stanch had been delayed multiple times in the years since their arrests. They were set to face a jury in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the courthouse, again forcing a delay.
They were found guilty in October following a six-week trial, prosecutors said.
Friends, family members and teachers testified that Samiah was a “sweet and happy little girl.” Samiah’s grandfather, Christopher Downing, told the San Bernardino Sun in January 2013 that the last time he spoke to the girl, she asked if he would be coming for her birthday.
The little girl with a big heart was born on Valentine’s Day. She would have turned 13 last month.
“I still don’t understand,” Downing told the Sun. “There is nothing in the world a baby could do to deserve even a part of this.”
The grieving grandfather described Samiah as a loving child who loved Dora the Explorer and visits to Chuck E. Cheese. She was on a visit with her father when she was slain.
“If I thought any of this would’ve happened, if I thought she was in any danger, she would’ve been with me,” Downing told the newspaper.
Samiah, nicknamed “Little Peanut,” lived with her mother, grandmother and great aunt, the Victorville Daily Press reported in 2013. Though shy, she was always smiling and playful.
Her great aunt, Lori Kubasiak, told the newspaper that Samiah’s mother wanted her daughter to have a relationship with Greer, so the little girl began spending time at her father’s house. After a while, however, Greer started refusing to give Samiah back on schedule.
When sheriff’s deputies began to search for Samiah on Dec. 27, 2012, they pulled Greer over in a traffic stop. Greer’s other child was in the car, but there was no sign of Samiah.
Greer claimed that Samiah was with her mother, who told detectives that she was supposed to be with Greer.
The subsequent investigation led to the discovery of the girl’s body.
Kubasiak told the Daily Press in 2013 that the family wanted people to know that Samiah was greatly loved.
“We want her to be remembered, and for people to remember that she was loved and taken good care (of) by our family, that she wasn’t abandoned with these people,” Kubasiak said.
Jason Anderson, the district attorney of San Bernardino County, said last week that Samiah’s death affected everyone in the community.
“From Samiah’s extended family, friends, and teachers to the law enforcement officers investigating this crime, to everyone in the district attorney’s office that had a part in this case, we will always hold Samiah in our memory and our hearts,” Anderson said.