Crime - Sacto 911

Mother who left daughter, 3, in hot SUV to remove ‘lustful demons’ convicted of murder

Angela Phakhin is arraigned on murder charge in daughter’s death

The Arkansas couple arrested along the American River Parkway in Rancho Cordova when police discovered the body of the woman's 3-year-old daughter in their sport utility vehicle were formally arraigned on murder charges Friday in the girl's death.
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The Arkansas couple arrested along the American River Parkway in Rancho Cordova when police discovered the body of the woman's 3-year-old daughter in their sport utility vehicle were formally arraigned on murder charges Friday in the girl's death.

An Arkansas woman was convicted Tuesday of murder, nearly two years to the day after her 3-year-old daughter was found dead by Rancho Cordova police in the back seat of an SUV, under blankets, on a hot summer day.

A jury found Angela Phakhin, 29, guilty of first-degree murder and unanimously found true that she was guilty of premeditated murder and felony torture in the June 2017 death of her daughter, Maiya, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Wednesday.

Phakhin’s fiancé, Untwan Smith, is awaiting trial on the same charges.

Phakhin came to California with Maiya and Smith in 2016, according to police. On June 28, 2017, Rancho Cordova police officers discovered the couple’s vehicle parked the wrong way on Rod Beaudry Drive near River Bend Park, The Sacramento Bee reported at the time.

The DA’s news release says that Phakhin and Smith exposed Maiya to “extreme summer temperatures” over a two-week span. She died after being left in a hot car for 9 1/2 hours; the previous day, she had been left in the car for 4 1/2 hours.

National Weather Service archives show the Sacramento region reached about 89 degrees the day of Maiya’s death and 85 degrees the prior day. About a week earlier, temperatures ranged between 104 and 107 degrees for five straight days, between June 18 to June 22.

Phakhin told law enforcement she left Maiya in the hot vehicle “to remove the lustful demons from Maiya,” the DA’s news release said. Phakhin also reportedly ignored repeated warnings to take her daughter to a cooling shelter.

Phakhin was found guilty after a more than monthlong jury trial. She faces 25 years to life in prison, and is scheduled for sentencing July 19.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.

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