Reporting Derek Shore
STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) – A father has been arrested after his infant daughter died; his wife claims he abused her and their four children as they lived in their car.
The family lived in a trailer until last month. They then moved into their car on Hickman Road in Stanislaus County.
“Since I found this out, I’ve been literally sick all day from this,” said Nikki Gardner.
Gardner was overwhelmed with emotion after learning of the death of her former tiny tenant, who lived in the Ceres trailer park.
“She was just so lovable, so sweet,” she said.
Gardner identified the 8-month-old as Jessica Rutherford. Before the Rutherfords moved into the family’s car, Gardner says they were living in a filthy trailer.
A few weeks later, deputies say, the baby would be dead in the family car.
“The autopsy was done today, but the cause of death is not being released at this time,” said Stanislaus County sheriff’s Sgt. Keith Rakoncza.
Still deputies would place the baby’s father — Dale Rutherford — under arrest for domestic violence and child abuse for allowing his four young children to live in a car.
His wife, who claims to be an abuse victim, has not been arrested; but Gardner doesn’t buy it.
“I think they should both be in prison. They should not, they should not get away with this,” she said.
Gardner says out of nowhere they moved out. The Rutherfords had paid rent and wrecked their home.
“Filth, squalor, I wouldn’t let me pup live in here,” said Gardner of the messy home.
While the family lived in the home, Gardner says was concerned there was drug use.
“I bet my life on the fact that those babies were asleep in a car while they were in a house doping,” she said.
Gardner says she’s left praying for some justice, but she’s left with a lot of guilt.
“I feel like I dropped the ball, that God put them here and I dropped the ball. I let them out of my grasp and they were 20 minutes from here, 20 minutes from here,” she said.
Neither parent has been charged in the infant’s death.