After 14 days of speculation, detectives from the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office arrested Summer Everett and her newly-wedded husband today in connection with the murder of her daughter, 20-month old Dakota Burke Everett.
Everett and Christopher Knapp were both charged with murder and aggravated child abuse in an investigation Sheriff Sam Cochran said was hindered by the suspects’ unwillingness to cooperate.
The pair was arrested this afternoon, and as they were taken into custody at the Mobile Metro Jail just after 5 p.m., neither the child’s mother nor Knapp had any comment for reporters. Cochran said the pair seemed “emotionless” throughout his office’s investigation.
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 authorities, Dakota had sustained several injuries, mostly bruises and burns on her hands, feet and face — she died from the injuries Jan. 8.
“Our detectives said they had never seen a child endure so many continuing injuries leading up to the injury that ultimately resulted in her death,” Cochran said. “This child endured these injuries over a period of time. It’s always tough when you have child that age who can’t speak for themselves, so that’s what the detectives have done today.”
Cochran said Everett and Knapp made some initial conflicting statements to investigators, but after MCSO was contacted by two attorneys shortly after the investigation began, the newlyweds ceased speaking to authorities.
“It was kind of an impediment, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker in this case,” Cochran said.
Police executed a search warrant Jan. 7 at Everett’s home in Semmes, where authorities say she lived with Knapp. The search was conducted seven days after Dakota was admitted to the hospital with serious injuries including head trauma, bruises and burns on her hands, feet and face.
Everett and Knapp made headlines locally when they chose to have an abrupt marriage at the Mobile County Probate Court earlier this week, which lead several to speculate the move was to prevent testimony under spousal privilege.
Cochran said investigators “probably thought the same thing you did,” but wouldn’t expand on what that meant. He did say “it was strange for a mother to have a wedding before her child was buried.” He also told reporters two detectives were watching as the pair exchanged vows in the courthouse.
Detectives wouldn’t disclose many details of the investigation, but Cochran said the identical charges of murder and aggravated child abuse speak to what investigators believe each suspects involvement in Dakota’s death were.
A funeral for Dakota is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 17, but Cochran said unless Everett is granted bond, the department won’t make any special arrangements for her to attend the services. According to court records, a bond hearing for neither suspect has been scheduled at this time.
Though some criticized the length of time it took to make an arrest, Cochran said there were impediments the department had to work around.
“It’s tough when you’ve got a victim that cannot speak to what has happened, and you’ve got the closest people to her not speaking and telling the truth,” he said. “The detectives you see here have interviewed several witnesses including family members, friends and relatives.”
Cochran said his detectives had worked to gather “very substantial evidence” he feels will sustain the charges when the case is taken over by the Mobile County District Attorney’s office.