Mother and boyfriend arrested in Rancho Cordova after 3-year-old girl’s body found under blanket in back seat

Police investigate an SUV owned by a couple who were detained for questioning after a child's body was found in the back seat.
(Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department via Associated Press)

Authorities are continuing to investigate the circumstances around the death of a child whose body was found under a blanket in the back seat of a car in Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County sheriff’s officials said.

The discovery came after a sheriff’s deputy stopped to talk to a man and woman outside their vehicle, which was on the wrong side of a two-lane road inside River Bend Park east of Sacramento, the Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. The road runs parallel to the American River.

The deputy ran a records check on the couple and learned the pair were from Arkansas, where the man had an outstanding warrant, KCRA reported. Authorities searched the car and found the body of a 3-year-old girl under a blanket in the back seat, Sgt. Tony Turnbull said. The couple had been living out of their car with the girl since February, though investigators don’t know why, officials said.

The girl’s body had no obvious signs of trauma, and an investigation into the cause of death will help investigators determine whether the case is a homicide, Turnbull said.


The child was the woman’s daughter, Turnbull said. After questioning from investigators, the girl’s mother, Angela Phakhin, 27, and the man, Untwan Smith, 46, whom police said was Phakhin’s boyfriend, were arrested on suspicion of child endangerment.

They are being held in the county jail in lieu of $1 million bail and are scheduled to appear in court Friday.


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1:35 p.m.: This article was updated with the arrest and identity of two suspects.


June 29, 6:35 a.m.: This article was updated with the toddler’s sex and relationship to the woman.

This article was originally published at 10:15 a.m.