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Toddler’s body found during search for Southern California child

LOS ANGELES – Authorities on Thursday found the body of a toddler believed to be an 18-month-old girl reported missing by her mother, who said someone knocked her out while she was putting the child into her car seat.

The baby was found in tall grass beside a street in the northern LA neighborhood of Sylmar, a few blocks from Interstate 5, sheriff’s officials said.

The 20-year-old mother, whose name was not released, was not in custody and was cooperating, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Pat Nelson.

“At this point I would not term her a suspect. That may change as circumstances develop,” Nelson said.

The mother told authorities she last saw her daughter, Emma Leigh Barker, at 5 p.m. Wednesday while putting her into a car seat at Lancaster City Park in northern Los Angeles County, Nelson said.

The mother said she was hit from behind by someone she didn’t see and knocked unconscious. She told investigators she woke up at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday in her car in a parking lot in neighboring Palmdale and her daughter was missing, and she contacted sheriff’s deputies 30 minutes to an hour later, said Deputy Aura Sierra.

The mother was partially clad and suffering from a head injury when she was interviewed, Nelson said.

Within a few hours several inconsistencies in the woman’s story emerged, Nelson said.

“Further investigation led unfortunately to the discovery of the body of the toddler,” he said. It was found late Thursday morning in the Mission Hills area of Los Angeles, about a 50-mile drive from Lancaster.

While the body had yet to be positively identified, Nelson said investigators were “fairly confident” it was Emma.

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