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Vigil honors toddler found dead in vehicle in Las Vegas

Updated October 6, 2020 - 9:54 pm

“Long live Sayah,” a group of about 100 yelled through sobs as they released balloons Tuesday evening in honor of the 1-year-old girl, who died Monday afternoon after being locked in a car in central Las Vegas.

The group set up a memorial with candles, flowers and stuffed animals as they cried and prayed for the family of Sayah Deal.

The girl’s father, 27-year-old Sidney Deal, was arrested Monday on child abuse charges after police interviewed Deal’s brother and girlfriend, who tried to help in getting his daughter out of the car, according to an arrest report from the Metropolitan Police Department.

Police were hailed around 3:30 p.m. at 1719 H St. where the report said Deal rejected their offers to break the window or call a tow truck or locksmith and said he just needed to call his brother. Deal’s brother told police Sidney Deal called and asked for their mother’s insurance information after locking his keys in the car but said the air conditioning was still running so the infant would be fine.

When Deal’s brother arrived, he told police, “He immediately took his shirt off, wrapped it around his knuckles and was ready to punch the window,” according to the report. “Sidney stopped him and said he wanted to wait for a tow truck. Sidney insisted he not damage his new vehicle, stating he had just bought the car and did not have the money to repair a broken window.”

Deal’s girlfriend told police that she spent 23 minutes on hold with a locksmith but that Deal didn’t like the price the locksmith gave so he denied the services.

After about an hour, officers smashed a window and took the child out, but her body was in “rigor mortis,” the arrest report said.

According to the arrest report, Deal told police he thought the child was fine because the air conditioning was on but admitted she stopped moving on the floor of the backseat, which he believed to have meant she had gone to sleep.

Police spokesman Larry Hadfield said Tuesday evening that the officers waited to break the window because Deal was adamant about protecting the car and they could see the child breathing.

“The dad said that the A/C was on and the kid was playing, and when the officers arrived, they saw that she was breathing” Hadfield said. “But when the officers got concerned for the child’s well-being, they broke the window.”

‘Tragic accident’

Neighbors who said they were home on Monday and witnessed the ordeal had a different story.

Shellie Ratliff, 64, lives in the building next door and watched Deal and police try to get into the car for about two hours before the window was broken. She said police even asked her for a clothes hanger to try to pop the lock.

She said she didn’t know there was a baby in the car until she saw the body being pulled out.

“I don’t understand why police didn’t bust that window open first,” Ratliff said. “You can always get another car, but you can’t get another life.”

Darius Jones, 26, and sister Alaijzha Shields, 14, live next door to Deal’s girlfriend and said they’ve seen him with his daughter regularly for the past year. Jones said Deal has been nice and always seemed like a great father.

He said he had never seen Deal without Sayah, either holding her in his arms or walking with her holding onto his finger. The two always had smiles on their faces and were laughing and playing, he said.

“I honestly believe it was a tragic accident,” Jones said. “I can genuinely say that since that baby was small, he’s loved on her. I’ve never seen a bad time when he had that little girl in his possession.”

Jones said that he wasn’t home Monday afternoon, but his sister and mother FaceTimed him and showed him what was going on. He said Deal was “walking back and forth waiting for (officers) to break open a window. He even tried; they told him no,” he said.

Shields, who said she was home when it happened, said officers wouldn’t let anyone break the car’s windows or help resuscitate the baby.

“They said that they couldn’t’ break the window because they had to get permission from the sergeant, they had to make sure it was his car and stuff like that, but they sat out here for two or three hours walking around, looking inside the car,” Shields said. “They looked inside, and I guess the baby wasn’t moving, so the officer just opened the window, they unlocked the doors and Sidney took out the baby.”

Deal was being held at the Clark County Detention Center on $20,000 bail. He is expected to appear in court Thursday.

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter. Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.

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