The Missouri mother who told police she accidentally baked her baby to death had suffered from mental illness for years, a longtime friend told The Daily Beast on Sunday.
Mariah Thomas, 26, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and could face a decade or more in prison in connection with the death of 1-month-old daughter Za’Riah.
According to a police affidavit, Thomas told her parents—who were not home at the time—that she went to put the infant down for a nap and mistakenly put her in the oven instead of the crib.
Responding officers found the baby covered in “thermal” burns, her onesie melted into her diaper.
It was not immediately clear if authorities accepted Thomas’ explanation for the death of her child, and her family did not respond to requests for comment. Authorities did not release any details about Thomas’ mental health history.
A close friend, who asked not to be identified amid an outpouring of vitriol against Thomas and her family on social media, does not believe she purposefully killed the child.
“Mariah has been dealing with mental illnesses since a child,” the friend said, adding that Thomas told her she stopped taking medication for her conditions while pregnant.
The friend said she asked if Thomas started taking her medication again after the baby was born.
“She said, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘But you not pregnant no more.’ And that’s when she laughed, and I said that’s not funny,” she said.
Thomas’ mental health deteriorated further after she gave birth, the friend said, pointing to posts Thomas made on Facebook and TikTok in which she claimed that people only cared about her because she had a baby.
“I’m done being fucking nice,” Thomas wrote on Jan. 15. “Like I said before y’all only fucking with me cause of my daughter & I said what I said.”
Throughout the month, Thomas posted multiple times about feeling lonely or that she had no friends.
“She thought everyone only likes her because her daughter was born, and she didn’t like that at all,” the friend said. “She wanted everyone’s attention, too, just like Za’Riah was getting attention.”
She said Thomas—who also posted about the joy of being a mother—really loved her baby and would never want to harm her. “I know Mariah didn’t do it on purpose,” the friend said.
Thomas lived with her parents, but her mother went to work on Friday and her father went out to look for work, leaving her alone with Za’Riah. Hours later, Thomas called her mother in hysterics to say something was wrong with the baby.
Police were summoned and were told that she had told her father, “I thought I put Za'riah in the crib but I accidentally put her in the oven.”
The friend said she could not believe it when she heard the news.
“She didn’t mean to hurt her baby,” she said. “She loved her baby dearly.”