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Father abused 4-year-old girl for weeks before her death, prosecutors say

A 23-year-old Los Angeles man has been accused of abusing his 4-year-old daughter for several weeks before she died Sunday night, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Charles Richard Lee was charged with one count of assault causing death in connection with the death of his daughter, Zaraellia Thompson, according to a news release issued Tuesday by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

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Lee is expected to make his initial appearance in a downtown courtroom Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

Los Angeles police launched an investigation about 11 a.m. Sunday after they were contacted by staff at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center about a 4-year-old girl who was brought in by ambulance, police said. The girl had been taken to the hospital from a home in the 1500 block of East 42nd Street, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Zaraellia was dropped off at Lee’s home “several weeks ago” and that he had physically abused her “over the course of that time,” according to the news release.

Paramedics responded to Lee’s home and found Zaraellia unresponsive on Sunday, investigators said. She was pronounced dead at the hospital at 11:34 a.m. Sunday, though her cause of death has not yet been determined.

Lee is being held in lieu of $1 million, according to online jail records.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the head of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services said the agency had launched an internal review of its contacts with the family before Zaraellia’s death.

“Today, we mourn the senseless death of a child in Los Angeles County — a 4-year-old girl whose father has been arrested and accused of child abuse. As a department, our first and foremost priority is the safety of our county’s children. We are committed to cooperating with law enforcement to determine exactly what happened,” DCFS Director Bobby Cagle said in the statement.

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

8:20 p.m.: This story was updated with a statement from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

This story was first published at 3:05 p.m.

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