Fayetteville mother's story at odds with toddler's injuries, death
Posted March 28
Updated March 31
Fayetteville, N.C. — A Fayetteville woman and her boyfriend, accused of killing her 2-year-old, made their first appearance in district court Monday.
Jeanie Kassandra Ditty, 23, and Zachary Earl Keefer, 32, of Spring Lake, are charged with first-degree murder and negligent child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury in the death of Ditty's daughter, Macey. They are both 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. A medical examiner later ruled that the girl's death was a homicide.
"Once we saw that report, it indicated that the child had not died of natural causes," said District Attorney Billy West. "The cause of death was listed as homicide and we proceeded with warrants at that time."
During the time Jeanie Ditty was free, she contacted photographer Sonny Jo. She asked him to create photos with her with her daughter at the cemetery.
"She told me her daughter had passed away by choking on a banana, and that choking gave her seizures which made her lose oxygen to the brain and then she passed away," Jo said.
Jo passed the information on to investigators.
According to investigators, Ditty did not give them the same story.
"What the ER staff said is that the injuries were all over the child's body," McLaurin said. "She had extensive injuries, and based on their observations, they felt it was immediately abuse and not an accident."
While West cannot yet comment on the specifics of the case, he said this type of crime tears at his heart.
"I have children. I have young children, and it's a truly innocent victim, and we are going to do everything we can to get justice for this child," he said.
The couple was living in the Stone Ridge Apartments in Fayetteville at the time of the incident.
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.