On Dec. 31, 2014, at approximately 3:30 p.m. deputies were dispatched to the emergency room at Providence Hospital in response to an unresponsive child. According to information received through dispatchers, EMS units were sent to 7152 N. Woods Drive in Semmes.
EMS reported that the mother, Summer Everett, had found the child unresponsive on her bed, and MCSO personnel said the child remained unresponsive when they arrived at Providence Hospital. According to authorities, Dakota had sustained several injuries, mostly bruises and burns on her hands, feet and face.
“There was noticeable trauma to the face and head of the child,” MCSO said in a statement. “Later that same day, after further examination by doctors and other medical specialists, the child was transported to the trauma unit at the University of South Alabama Medical Center due to the severity of her injuries.”Police executed a search warrant on Jan. 7 at Everett’s home in Semmes, where authorities say she lived with her then-boyfriend-now-husband Christopher Knapp. A day later, on Jan. 8, Dakota Burke died at 4:30 p.m., the result of her extensive injuries.
Though authorities have yet to comment on its significance to the investigation, Mobile County Probate Records show Everett married Knapp at a Mobile Courthouse in the middle of the day Jan. 12 — just four days after her daughter’s death. The development led to speculation on social media that the move was to prevent any testimony under “spousal privilege.”
Common law in the United States does allow spouses to be exempt from being compelled to testify against their significant other in certain cases, but criminaldefenselawyer.com states that “the spousal privilege is not absolute and comes with several exceptions and conditions.”
“MCSO along with the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office have been working on this investigation from the time the child was brought in to the hospital,” the press release reads. “We have been interviewing family members, family friends, emergency responders, doctors, hospital staff and others who have been in contact with this child.”
Authorities are currently investigating the death as a homicide, according to MCSO personnel.
Though investigators haven’t released many details, they did originally use a children’s expert to question the 4-year-old daughter of Santana Deanna Elaine King, the deceased’s stepsister. Authorities originally believed she may have been a witness to a crime, but no details on the interviews have been released.
MCSO spokesperson Lori Myles was sure to say King was not considered a suspect in the investigation.
Several Mobile County residents have been following the investigation closely through social media. A Facebook page called “Justice for Dakota Burke” has garnered 4,430 likes in just five days. A GoFundMe account has also been created to help fund burial services for the family, and has received almost $3,000 as of Jan. 13.
According to the webpage, the fund was started by “friends and co-workers of Dakota’s grandparents, who were in no way involved in her death.”
If anyone has information pertaining to this case and the death of this child, contact Mobile County Sheriff’s Office at 251-574-8633. Information can also be submitted through the Sheriff’s website, http://www.mobileso.com/report-a-crime.