Local News

Second suspect arrested in death of Fayetteville toddler

Posted March 25, 2016
Updated March 27, 2016

— A Spring Lake man was arrested Friday in connection with the December death of a 2-year-old girl.

Zachary Earl Keefer, 32, of Village Lake Court, was charged with first-degree murder and negligent child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury and was being held in the Cumberland County jail without bond.

Macey Ditty was unresponsive when her mother took her to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center on Dec. 2. Police said a preliminary investigation revealed that Macey had bruises all over her body and had suffered life-threatening injuries consistent with child abuse.

"Once they determined that the child had severe injuries, they actually had to move the child to UNC-Chapel Hill's hospital, and there they discovered that the injuries were very serious, and the child died within a couple of days," said Lt. David McLaurin, a spokesman for the Fayetteville Police Department.

Macey died Dec. 4, but investigators waited for autopsy results to determine the cause of death before filing any criminal charges, McLaurin said. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Wednesday that the girl's death was a homicide.

Macey's mother, Jeanie Kassandra Ditty, 23, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder and negligent child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. She also was being held without bond.

The couple was living in the Stone Ridge Apartments in Fayetteville at the time of the incident.

"Oh my God, I'm floored by hearing what happened. That's crazy," said Annika Lightfoot, who lives at the apartment complex and remembers see Ditty and Keefer with the little girl.

"I freak out every time my son yells, cries or just anything, so I can't imagine ever doing anything to intentionally hurt a child at all," Lightfoot said.

McLaurin said the death of a child is the kind of crime that rips at investigators' hearts.

"It weighs on them. It's very serious to a lot of them," he said. "A lot of our officers have children, so they take it very seriously, and it's very disheartening."

Fort Bragg officials said Ditty is a chemical specialist with the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade. Keefer is a retired Special Forces medic who now is a body builder and owner of a fitness business in Spring Lake.


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