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Parents of deceased 6-month-old indicted on murder charges in Cleveland Co.

Steven Dean, left, and Morgan Conn (WSOC photo)

SHELBY, N.C. - The parents of a 6-month-old girl who died more than a month after being rushed to Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte have been indicted on first-degree murder charges.

The infant's father, 34-year-old Steven Dean, and her mother, 34-year-old Morgan Conn were jailed on charges of felony child abuse, and were ordered held on $150,000 bail.

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Jenna Bullman, a neighbor, said Dean frantically knocked on her door on March 24 in hopes she could help his baby, Khloe. Bullman performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

Bullman, who is a nursing assistant, tried her best to resuscitate the baby, believing the child had suffered a seizure.

"I walked in. She was on the couch and she was laying there lifeless," Bullman said. "It's hard to look over there. It's hard to look over there because I don't know what happened. I just kept wishing that I could've seen her and talked to her, and just been there to tell her that I loved her, just so she would've heard somebody say that she was loved."

Investigators said the Cleveland County Sheriff's Office was called March 24 to Carolinas Medical Center to investigate what doctors believed to be a case of child abuse.

For more than a month, Bullman has been replaying the tragic day over and over again in her mind.

"Why couldn't I have known? Why couldn't I have had some sort of sixth sense that something was wrong?" Bullman said. "She was so tiny and she was so precious and so gorgeous, and you see her little face and I just can't get it out of my mind."

After speaking with doctors, deputies obtained a warrant for 2008 Rehobeth Church Road in Shelby. Authorities arrested Dean and Conn.

"For somebody to do something like that crushed me so bad to where I was angry. I was, you know, just every emotion that you can possible think of is what I felt," Bullman said.

Authorities in Catawba County charged Dean two years ago with assault on a child under 12.

The district attorney later dropped that charge.

"Cases involving children are always difficult," Sheriff Alan Norman said, before the baby's death. "Babies are at the mercy of their parents to take care of them and keep them safe. Unfortunately, this did not happen in this case. I would ask everyone to keep this baby in their thoughts and prayers as she continues to battle for her life."

Neighbors said the couple had nine children ranging in age from infant to late teens.

Dean's brother-in-law, Danny Osborne, said Dean fell on the floor of the jail and started sobbing when he heard his daughter had died.

"He fell out in the floor and starts crying, just balling and says he didn't do it," Osborne said.

Osborne said it doesn't make sense.

"It's a shock," he said. "I mean, we never thought he'd do anything like this."

Warrants do not say how the child suffered the injuries, but they say her father admitted to using cocaine the weekend before she died, and her mother had a history of Xanax drug abuse, reportedly trading food stamps for Xanax and selling painkillers that were prescribed to her son, who had brain cancer.

The night before Khloe's death, her mother had apparently passed out and couldn't be awakened, according to warrants.

Other children in the home have been placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services.

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