KEY POINTS

  • The body of Zaila Lee, 2, was found in trash bags placed inside a cooler at her grandmother's house
  • Her 42-year-old grandmother, LaTonya Austin, was indicted on murder following the discovery
  • Austin also faces charges of felonious assault, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse

A grandmother in Hamilton County, Ohio has been accused of striking and killing her 2-year-old granddaughter, who was found in trash bags that were placed inside a cooler at her home.

LaTonya Austin, 42, was indicted on murder in connection to the March 24 death of her granddaughter, Zaila Lee, WKRC reported, citing a statement from Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters.

Court documents indicated that the child's body was put in trash bags on April 9 and hidden inside a cooler at Austin's property located along Schoedinger Avenue in Cincinnati's South Fairmount neighborhood, as per WLWT.

The Hamilton County Coroner's Office ruled Lee's death a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma.

According to Deters, the grandmother had struck Lee, causing her death. He pointed out that the child also suffered a deep laceration and a broken arm.

Austin was arrested on May 9 and was jailed on a $500,000 bond on her initial charges of tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

Austin allegedly tried to cover up Lee's death by "placing the body in trash bags and then into a plastic cooler rather than report the offense to authorities," investigators were quoted as saying by WLWT.

She was charged with one count of aggravated murder, two counts of felonious assault in addition to her initial charges of one count of tampering with evidence and one count of gross abuse of a corpse. She is facing life in prison if convicted on all charges.

"It is impossible to comprehend the depravity of an individual able to, not only strike a 2-year-old so hard to cause her death, but to then attempt to conceal that crime by stuffing the child’s lifeless body into a cooler," Deters said. 

"As a father and a grandfather, I am sick. I am saying a prayer for this victim’s siblings, and the members of the Cincinnati Police Department who had to process and investigate this horrible scene," he added.

cooler-bag-4812757_1920 Representation. The body of Zaila Lee, 2, body was found in trash bags inside a cooler at the property of her 42-year-old grandmother, LaTonya Austin. Photo: Pixabay