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Conneaut mother charged in connection with death of 13-month-old daughter

Posted at 11:55 AM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 18:08:34-04

The Ashtabula County Prosecutor's Office announced on Friday that the mother of a 13-month-old girl who was raped and killed last October has been charged in connection with her death.

Kelsie Blankenship, of Conneaut, was arrested on Friday and has been charged with murder, felonious assault, endangering children and domestic violence, Ashtabula County officials said in a news conference. 

RELATED: Murder and rape charges filed in connection to the death of a 1-year-old in Conneaut

On Oct. 7, 2017, authorities were called to an apartment in the 500 block of Clark Street, Conneaut, around 5:16 a.m. for a report of an unresponsive child. 

When police arrived, the mother was holding the child and screaming, "Help my baby."  

According to the coroner's office, the 13-month-old child — Sereniti Sutley — was rushed to University Hospitals Conneaut Medical Center and pronounced dead. 

Authorities said a preliminary autopsy showed the child suffered blunt force trauma to the head and body.

News 5 spoke with a friend of Blankenship who asked to remain anonymous. 

"She was a very nice girl," the woman said. "I was surprised. People had told me that before, and I said, 'No, no, no. That wouldn't be her. That can't be her.'" 

The friend lives on Sandusky Street, which is where Blankenship was arrested Friday morning. She was at her aunt's home when police arrived. 

The aunt declined to comment to News 5. 

The mother's boyfriend, Joshua Gurto, 38, fled the area but was later arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. He was charged with aggravated murder, murder, rape, felonious assault and domestic violence and transported back to Ashtabula County.

RELATED: Conneaut man wanted for rape,murderof 13-month-old girl captured in Pennsylvania

Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for Gurto, but authorities said on Friday they have filed a motion to dismiss the death penalty. 

Gurto's trial is scheduled for April 2, 2019.