Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

Tampa woman accused of murdering of granddaughter

TAMPA — When Janice Cobb came home the afternoon of Dec. 13 to a street filled with ambulances and police cars, she hoped they were there for her volatile sister-in-law — not the children.

Then she saw the paramedic rush from the home at 7213 S Juanita St., holding 3-year-old Yanelli Vasquez in his arms. The girl — her family called her "Yanelli belly" — was in cardiac arrest. She had cuts and bruises on her head, arms and legs, and was suffering from internal bleeding, according to a Tampa police report. The paramedics rushed her to Tampa General Hospital, where she died later that day.

The girl's grandmother — Carida "Charity" Cobb, 41 — told detectives she had been bathing Vasquez when the girl "started jumping and bouncing around the tub and off the walls and she may have hurt her back on a soap dish," a police report stated.

Detectives didn't believe her.

"The victim appeared to have been beaten and drowned," a detective wrote.

Carida Cobb was arrested Friday night on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. A week passed between the girl's death and the arrest while police awaited an autopsy, and then for the grandmother to recover from an apparent suicide attempt. A day after the child's death, Dec. 14, Cobb consumed a "large amount of pills," police said, and was hospitalized until Friday.

Carida Cobb has never been arrested before in Florida, state records show. But the wheelchair-ridden woman had violent tendencies that bothered Janice Cobb, her sister-in-law and next-door neighbor in Port Tampa. Janice Cobb said she once witnessed Carida Cobb jump from her wheelchair to slap her husband, Michael, during an argument and saw her sister-in-law assault him numerous times.

"She abused him," Janice Cobb, 52, said Saturday. "He would never put his hands on her."

Michael Cobb could not be reached for comment Saturday. Tampa police records show they were called to the home three times this year before the girl's death: two calls on April 3 that resulted in someone being taken into protective custody under the Baker Act, and a May 17 call about a family-related car theft.

Yanelli Vasquez had lived with Carida Cobb, her paternal grandmother, since 2011, according to family. That summer, police found Yanelli and her five brothers and sisters alone in their Tampa apartment. Their mother — Maria Vasquez, 27 — was later convicted of child neglect, state records show.

The four older children went to live with their mother's grandmother, while Yanelli and a brother went to live with Carida Cobb.

While Janice Cobb felt her sister-in-law shouldn't have been trusted with two young children, Yanelli's maternal grandmother was shocked by the little girl's death and Carida Cobb's arrest.

For two years, Darlene Guzman has talked to Carida Cobb regularly, checking on her other grandchildren and arranging events so the six children could be together.

"We thought she was a nice person," Guzman said Saturday. "She represented herself as a religious, God-fearing person."

The first sign of trouble came this summer, Guzman said, when Cobb complained that the children were getting to be too much for her. She was considering putting them up for adoption.

"I told her not to do that," Guzman recalled Saturday. "We have lots of family. We could have found someone."

Guzman, 56, and her husband Raul, 47, are raising Yanelli's four older siblings. They are trying to get custody of their 2-year-old grandson, Yasiel, who has been in a shelter since Yanelli's death. State officials told them they couldn't because that would be too many children in their four-bedroom home.

Guzman holds her daughter accountable for Yanelli's death, too.

"All of this could have been avoided if she had done what she was supposed to do," Guzman said of her daughter, Maria Vasquez, who she has not heard from since an exchange of text messages in October. Maria Vasquez has drug problems, her parents said Saturday. In addition to child neglect, she also has three convictions of cocaine possession.

Guzman flipped through pictures of her granddaughter on her cellphone Saturday as Yanelli's siblings watched cartoons. She stopped on a picture of Yanelli taken this Halloween. She dressed as a green fairy princess, with wings and a wand.

Cobb spent Saturday in the Hillsborough County Jail. A judge denied her bond.

After paramedics rushed Yanelli to the hospital last Friday, Janice Cobb prayed for the little girl to survive. The next day, she watched as paramedics rolled Carida Cobb from the same home, after the woman's apparent suicide attempt.

Again, Janice Cobb asked God to save a life, but for a different reason.

"I wanted her to survive, so she can face the consequences of what she did," Cobb said. "That little girl never had a chance."

This story has been edited to reflect the following correction: Darlene and Raul Guzman, grandparents of Yanelli Vasquez, are raising four of Vasquez's siblings in a four-bedroom home. A story in Sunday's paper incorrectly described the size of the home.

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer John Woodrow Cox contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400.

Comments
New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farmThe graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched the stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

FHP: Overturned vehicle reported on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — Drivers should avoid the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge for a while: The Florida Highway Patrol is responding to a report of an overturned vehicle there.The incident was reported on northbound Interstate 275, near mile marker 32,...
Updated: 1 hour ago

No charges against motorist as bicyclist is hit from behind, killed in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — A 52-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed early Friday when he was struck from behind by a car in Seminole Heights, Tampa police said.Wayne Kersh, 52, was killed in the collision about 12:15 a.m. on Hillsborough Avenue near N Central Aven...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Arrest made as former gay bathhouse in Ybor City is hit by arson a third time

Arrest made as former gay bathhouse in Ybor City is hit by arson a third time

TAMPA — Tampa police arrested a man Friday on charges he set fire to a vacant Ybor City bathhouse hit by at least two earlier arsons this year.Police said Carroll DeMoss, 46, was found early Friday inside the building at 1512 E 8th Ave. after patrols...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Missing Child Alert canceled for Port St. Lucie girl, 17

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 17-year-old Port St. Lucie girl who was last seen on Thursday.The case involving Heaven Flores has been resolved, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Updated: 7 hours ago

Hudson pedestrian killed while crossing U.S. 19

HUDSON — A Hudson man was killed Thursday night while crossing U.S. 19.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 59-year-old Gerald Berube was crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 north of Stahl Drive around 6:40 p.m. when he walked into the path ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

TAMPA — Police are seeking a "person of interest" who they believe has information about a Dec. 3 drive-by shooting that killed a 22-year-old man.Police are searching for Anan Motilal, 25. He stands about 5-foot-10 and weighs 180 pounds. He may have ...
Published: 12/14/17

Pinellas Park officer stuns middle school student with Taser

PINELLAS PARK — A school resource officer stunned a middle school student with a Taser while trying to break up a fight between her and another female student on Thursday, police said.Neither the Pinellas Park officer nor the students involved in the...
Published: 12/14/17
Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir was source of family strife before arrest

Bob’s Carpet and Flooring heir was source of family strife before arrest

An heir to a local flooring company charged with failing to report the death of a young woman last year has a troubled criminal history and was a source of strife in his family business, according to court records.Robert Butler III, 52, was arrested ...
Published: 12/14/17