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Hillsborough deputies charge man in death of girlfriend's toddler, 2

TAMPA — Two-year-old Gabrielle Randel couldn't sleep.

Her cries filled Room 108 at the Homestead Studio Suites hotel, where her family stayed Saturday night.

Sometime between 1 and 5 a.m. Sunday, deputies say, Kenneth G. Lopez, 21, wrapped his girlfriend's daughter in a towel, binding her torso and arms.

Then, according to a deputy's report, he wound a sheet around Gabrielle's body and face, and struck her repeatedly with his hand.

At 5 a.m., Gabrielle's mother, Danielle McCleary, 23, called authorities.

Her daughter couldn't breathe and didn't respond.

In a report, a deputy who arrived at the hotel described Gabrielle's injuries like this: "blunt trauma to her forehead, multiple bruising, abrasions, and a hand mark upon her body, as well as trauma to her genitalia."

Gabrielle died at 1 p.m. Sunday at Tampa General Hospital.

Lopez admitted to bundling the child and striking her to get her to hush, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

Also in the room at the time was Gabrielle's 3-year-old brother. He has been placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families, Carter said.

McCleary told deputies she and Lopez had been living at the hotel for two weeks since moving here from Illinois.

McCleary has relatives in the area, Carter said.

A woman at one relative's home said the family's grief is too fresh to talk.

On Monday evening at the Homestead Studio Suites just off of Hillsborough Avenue and Veterans Highway, customers came and went. The hotel advertises nightly and weekly rates, starting at $59.99 a night for rooms that include fully equipped kitchens.

Lopez was booked into Orient Road Jail without bond on a charge of aggravated child abuse. Deputies expect to upgrade that charge to reflect the toddler's death.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Hillsborough deputies charge man in death of girlfriend's toddler, 2 03/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:37am]
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