A Compton gardener was being held without bail Sunday for allegedly beating his 6-year-old niece to death with a board and a plastic pipe.
Loyal McGinty, 55, was arrested on suspicion of murder Saturday after taking the girl to Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, said Sgt. Ramon Allen of the Compton Police Department.
The child, who was not immediately identified by name, died Saturday night "as a result of being physically abused," Allen said.
Homicide detectives were investigating reports that the beating began when the child failed to correctly answer a question.
The girl had been living the last four months at McGinty's residence in the 300 block of West Cedar Street, where she had moved with her sister and two brothers after the death of their mother, authorities said.
Police added that the victim's 10-year-old brother had difficulty walking and had recently been treated for alleged physical abuse.
McGinty's relatives could not be reached for comment Sunday, but neighbors expressed shock at hearing of the girl's death.
They described McGinty as a quiet, bearded man who occasionally trimmed their lawns and gave friends bags of oranges and lemons from his back yard trees.
"I can't believe it, he's not that kind of man," next-door neighbor Arturo Casares said, shaking his head. "He doesn't drink. He doesn't smoke. Every time you see him he's working on his lawn."
Casares said McGinty told him several months ago that his sister-in-law had passed away and that he was going to be taking care of her children. Casares' 8-year-old daughter, Rosemary, recalled playing with the girl on the McGintys' front lawn.
"We rode bikes, played hide-and-seek," she said, but could not remember her name.
Other neighbors knew less about the family, but all agreed they were friendly.
"They're real quiet," said Tonya Smith, who lives across the street.
McGinty moved into the neighborhood with his wife and three children about six years ago, and worked as a gardener in Palos Verdes, Casares said. McGinty, who cut the grass for Casares several times, would spend hours tending his own garden.