Stepfather Sought in Suspicious Death of Infant

Phnom Penh police were searching on Wednesday for a man suspected of smothering his 6-month-old stepdaughter, while the baby’s mother was in police custody after testing positive for methamphetamines, according to officials.

Chan Ratana, 27, left her daughter, Chakrey Pisith Chesda, in the care of her husband at an apartment in Russei Keo district’s Tuol Sangke commune while she went to have an ID card made in nearby Chraing Chamreh commune on Tuesday afternoon, according to a police report.

Upon arriving, she called her husband, who informed her, “Your daughter is dead,” the report said. The suspect was holding her child when she returned to the apartment, it added.

The mother took the infant to Calmette Hospital, where a doctor declared that the infant had been killed by someone “covering the nose,” it said.

Huy Hean, Tuol Sangke commune police chief, said Ms. Ratana reported the death at about 5:30 p.m. and police later determined that the case was murder.

She was arrested and questioned at the commune police station that day, as police wanted to determine whether she had been involved in the baby’s death, he said.

While Ms. Ratana was cleared of the murder, her urine tested positive for crystal meth, and she was transferred to the district police station, he said. She was to be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for further questioning.

Meanwhile, police are actively searching for her husband, whom Mr. Hean declined to name, citing ongoing investigations.

A post to the Facebook page of the Child Protection Unit, a policing charity working on the case, identified the suspect as 29-year-old Keu Hamsas. It said he called his wife “telling her that her daughter was not well and to hurry back home.”

“A forensic examination…determined the cause of death as suspicious, noting several injuries on the child,” it added.

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