4-Year-old victim in 'egregious' child abuse case dies

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- The 4-year-old girl who suffered serious abuse, allegedly at the hand of her mom and her mom's boyfriend, has died.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said Toryn Buckman died of her injuries Thursday night.

Ashley Buckman and her live-in boyfriend, James Edward, were arrested Wednesday night and charged with child abuse and failure to protect a child. Thompson said the case will now be classified as a homicide, which means new charges will be filed.

Toryn was rushed to the hospital Wednesday night after a 911 call reported a child not breathing.

"When the fire department got there, they immediately recognized that this child who was not breathing at the time was actually the victim of child abuse," Thompson said during a news conference Thursday morning.

In talking with Buckman and Edwards, both 22, investigators learned that the little girl allegedly had been beaten on several occasions, the most recent of which was Tuesday after Toryn soiled her bed. The next night, Buckman allegedly slapped the little girl in the face when she started being "naughty" again. At that point, Toryn stopped breathing.

That's when paramedics were called.

According to Thompson, Buckman and Edwards initially lied to police about what had happened to Toryn and then "began to minimize the effects" as officers learned the facts, including that the abuse had apparently been going on for quite some time.

"There were injuries basically head to foot," Thompson said. The little girl had abrasions and bruises, as well as whip marks possibly made by a hanger and apparent scald marks on her lower body.

"Because of the nature of the marks, it appears the child was intentionally scalded with hot water in the bathtub," Thompson said.

It's not yet clear just how old some of the injuries were.

Detectives are calling this one of the most egregious instances of child abuse they have ever seen.

"These are detectives who have 25 years of experience with the department, have been working homicide for a long time," Thompson said.

While Edwards was not Toryn's father, he and Buckman have a 1-year-old child together. That child is now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Thompson said there did not appear to be any abuse involving the 1-year-old.

Already booked on child abuse charges, Buckman and Edwards will now face charges in connection with Toryn's death. Both made their initial court appearances Friday morning.

The judge set Buckman's bond at $250,000. A status conference has been scheduled for June 7, followed by a preliminary hearing on June 11.

Bond for Edwards was set at $100,000. He also has a status conference on June 7 and a preliminary hearing on June 11.