Parents charged in death of 19-month-old daughter left alone at home

LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — A Pennsylvania couple is accused of neglect in the death of their 19-month-old daughter who was found dead after being left alone in a home for more than a day, authorities said.

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James Kasisky Jr., 26, and Valentina Varela-Luis, 25, were charged with manslaughter and endangerment in the death of their daughter Phoenix, who was found dead inside a Newport Township home in December, the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre reported.

According to the Pennsylvania State Police, the couple did not check on their daughter for more than 24 hours, WNEP reported.

Court records stated that the child had been left in a warm room and had no food or water, according to the television station.

Varela-Luis told investigators that she had put her daughter to sleep at 5 p.m. on Dec. 22 and went to bed at midnight, the Times Leader reported. The woman left for work the next day at 9 a.m. without checking on the child, a span of 16 hours, according to investigators.

Investigators stated that Kasisky returned home from his job at 5 a.m. on Dec. 23 and did not check on his daughter until he found her dead 13 hours later, the newspaper reported.

According to a criminal complaint, the child was left alone in her room for 26 hours “in a high-heat, low-humidity environment,” with “no known hydration or nutrition,” the Times Leader reported.

Kasisky allegedly told investigators that he had fed the victim and the couple’s other child Rice Krispies Treats and orange juice on the morning of Dec. 23, according to the newspaper. He also allegedly said he fed the children pizza and cookies on Dec. 23 for lunch.

An autopsy performed three days later contradicted Kasisky’s claims, as officials found only a trace of liquid in the toddler’s stomach.

Kasisky later admitted to investigators that his memory of events that night was “something he made up in his own mind,” according to the criminal complaint.

Kasisky and Varela-Luis were arraigned in Nanticoke on Monday, WNEP reported.

“On the eve of Christmas Eve, very bitter cold night, the investigation revealed that this baby was left unattended for a period greater than 24 hours,” Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Shana Messinger told the court, according to the television station. “This case is horrific. It’s nightmarish in itself for any parent with children. I think the message is, you got to watch your children every step of the way.”

Kasisky and Varela-Luis were denied bail and were taken to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, according to WNEP.

A preliminary hearing for both suspects is set for April 5, the Times Leader reported.

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