Mother of girl, 9, found dead in refrigerator sentenced to 40 years

HOUSTON - The mother of a girl whose body was found wrapped in blankets inside a refrigerator at a southwest Houston apartment in 2014 was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Amber Keyes pleaded guilty to injury to a child by omission in December. She was facing up to life prison.

Keyes will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

According to records, Keyes' daughter, 9-year-old Ayahna Comb, died from malnutrition and dehydration while in her care. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Ayahna lived with her mother and 5-year-old sister in the 10100 block of Club Creek Drive. The girl had cerebral palsy and was so severely disabled she could not feed, clothe or care for herself. Family members said she was usually confined to a bed.

A concerned neighbor entered the family's apartment through an unlocked door on June 9, 2014, and found the child's body. He called the Houston Fire Department, and police were called to the scene.

Keyes had custody of both of her daughters.  After Ayahna's body was discovered, the 5-year-old was removed from the mother's custody and placed in the care of relatives.

Keyes voluntarily turned herself in to authorities to answer questions surrounding her daughter's death.

Ayahna weighed only 14 pounds at the time of her death.

A CPS case worker told the court during a hearing that Keyes admitted to putting her daughter's emaciated body in a drawer of her refrigerator after she stopped breathing on Jan. 29, 2014.

Keyes said she panicked and hid her daughter's death from authorities and family members. Ayahna's father, Armand Combs, insisted that he had recently talked to his daughter's mother, and that she acted as if everything was fine. He sought custody of the youngest girl, but was denied.

Ayahna's little sister also had no idea her sister was dead. Investigators said the girl found Ayahna's body in the drawer of the refrigerator while she was looking for a cheese stick snack. She then began telling her playmates.

Authorities said Keyes continued collecting Social Security disability income and food stamps for Ayahna following her death.

According to court documents, Ayahna's mother has a criminal history.

In 1998, police arrested Keyes on possession of a controlled substance charges, for which she spent more than a year in prison.

In 2000, she was arrested for criminal trespass and spent 30 days in jail.

CPS investigators say the mother of three has a history of substance abuse and a history with their agency.

Keyes also had a third daughter, who was older than Ayahna, but lost custody of her. The eldest girl was put up for adoption in 2004.

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