A Detroit dad improperly accused of murdering and sexually assaulting his infant daughter, who died April 23, had his life ruined by doctors, police and prosecutors, his attorney claims.
Felony murder, first-degree child abuse and first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against James Lee Saltmarshall, 22, of Detroit, were dismissed Thursday "in the best interest of justice," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's office said in a statement Thursday.
The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office, nearly two months after Saltmarshall's 8-month-old daughter, Janiyah, died, ruled the death an accident.
Meanwhile, Saltmarshall's mugshot, along with allegations he beat and caused tearing to his daughter's rectum had already spread widely on TV, in print and on the Internet.
Throughout the case, Saltmarshall maintained his innocence, claiming shortly after being released on bond that medical examiners found no evidence of abuse.
"They should have never brought charges; never, ever, ever," said Saltmarshall's attorney Lillian Diallo.
"There was no evidence of sexual assault; there was no evidence of a skull fracture; there was no evidence of shaken baby syndrome; there was no evidence at all behind the charges."
According to a statement from Worthy's office:
After an extensive investigation and based upon the June 16, 2017 report from the Wayne County Medical Examiner, it has been determined that the cause of death of the child was asphyxia and the manner of death was determined to be an accident. Mr. Saltmarshall and his daughter were determined to have slept adjacent to each other on an adult sized bed and upon waking Mr. Saltmarshall found the child unresponsive.
According to Lisa Croff, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office, Janiyah died of asphyaxia due to "overlay," and the determination was made June 12, based on death records.
The prosecutor's revised explanation is much different what Inkster police said happened at Saltmarshall's arraignment.
"Saltmarshall denied initially that Janiyah had fallen. He said he attempted to pick her up and shook her in an attempt to wake her," Inkster Police Lt. Jeffrey Smith said at the arraignment, visit this link according to WJBK-TV, Fox 2 News. "As the interview progressed, (Saltmarshall) said Janiyah initially slipped off the bed on the floor, and struck her head. Throughout the interview, Saltmarshall denied any responsibility in touching and damage to the anus."
Saltmarshall, who was extremely emotional during his arraignment, told Fox 2 he fell asleep on a bed in an Inkster hotel room with his daughter in his arms. When he awoke, she wasn't breathing. He immediately called 911.
Inkster police, who initiated the investigation, didn't immediately respond to MLive's requests for comment Thursday.
"In this case there was compelling evidence from the treating doctors that there was injury to the child that was a sexual assault and later when the child died a homicide," Maria Miller, an assistant prosecutor and spokeswoman said. "... The treating emergency medical doctors and other health professionals met with the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office and it was determined that the initial conclusion of a sexual assault and a homicide was erroneous."
It's not clear when the medical examiner's office determined the initial findings were incorrect.
Diallo, who said Saltmarshall wasn't ready to speak publicly Thursday, is "sad" and in need of counseling.
He missed his daughter's funeral, and as of Thursday, still hadn't been able to learn where she'd been buried.
And his reputation will always be tarnished.
"How do you get rid of the smear ... " Diallo said. "There are people who will believe it forever and ever.
"It's on the Internet ... that he's a baby rapist and the murdered of his child, so everything else is just a footnote."