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Former Noble daycare owner found guilty of first-degree murder in death of 5-month-old baby

NORMAN, Okla. – A daycare owner who was accused in the death of a baby was found guilty of first-degree murder by a Cleveland County jury Thursday afternoon, according to the Norman Transcript.

The jury recommended 47-year-old Melissa Clark serve life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Melissa Clark

Clark was arrested in July 2016 after she allegedly threw 5-month-old Braelyn Zachary onto a bouncy seat, giving her a “subdural hematoma, severe retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes and a bruise on her forehead.”

In court documents, Clark listed two different incidents that injured the baby the day she was taken to the hospital.

Clark told investigators, around 11:30 that morning, she was holding the baby and went to the kitchen and, while opening a water bottle, “somehow, Clark dropped the baby and the baby hit the tile floor.”

She said the baby’s head “hit the tile first.”

Later, she said “the other children were arguing and fighting, and she couldn’t get them to stop. At that time, the baby was also crying and wouldn’t stop. Clark lost it and threw the baby onto the bouncy seat.”

Clark told investigators the baby’s “body hit the bar on the bouncy seat. From there, [the victim’s] body fell onto the floor.”

Clark said she simply put the baby back in the bouncy seat and, when it appeared she was falling asleep, laid her on a blanket on the floor.

But, a short time later, she heard a sound as if “[the victim] was choking on fluids.”

She rushed over and picked her up and noticed her “body was limp and that she wasn’t breathing but once every 10 to 15 seconds.”

She told investigators she attempted CPR.

The baby was rushed to a Norman hospital and then transported to a Tulsa hospital.

Braelyn Zachary, family photo

Doctors at the hospital in Tulsa told investigators the events that Clark described may have happened that day but that they still didn’t explain the baby’s injuries.

They said her “condition would have been caused by a shaking component – thrusting of the head forward and backward with acceleration and deceleration.”

They told investigators “this is a child abuse case, the baby was shaken, and due to the severity of the injuries the symptoms would have been immediate.”

The infant later passed away at the hospital due to her injuries.

Clark told investigators she was stressed the day she allegedly injured the child due to family and financial problems.

Clark was originally charged with child abuse; however after Braelyn passed away, Clark’s charges were upgraded to first-degree murder.

Melissa Clark

Her formal sentencing is set for December 13.