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Florida Woman Allegedly Strangled 1-Year-Old Daughter to Death with Halloween Lights

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Kristen Marie DePasquale
Seminole County Jail

A Florida woman has been charged with first-degree murder and child neglect after allegedly strangling her 1-year-old daughter to death with a string of Halloween lights.

At first, Kristen Marie DePasquale reportedly blamed the girl’s death on her other child. But “as the investigation unfolded, detectives discovered there were multiple inconsistencies in DePasquale’s statements,” according to a news release from police in Oveido, Florida.

DePasquale was arrested Monday. She has pleaded not guilty and is “very sad,” her attorney says. A motive remains unclear.

Days earlier, on Thursday, DePasquale told police she left her daughter, Mia Rice, in the living room with her 2-year-old son while she took a five-minute shower, according to the release.

DePasquale claimed that she left the shower when she heard her son saying he was sorry for hurting his sister — and that’s when she found her daughter partially hanging from a string of pumpkin-shaped lights that were around her neck, police said in the release.

She called 911, and responding officers attempted to revive the little girl, the Orlando Sentinel reports. (Oviedo police did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for further comment.)

DePasquale blamed her son for the crime, and Mia was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

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But investigators say inconsistencies were soon revealed. Oviedo police detective Christopher George said in the arrest report that those inconsistencies included that the shower was dry, and that DePasquale was wearing makeup and jewelry, according to the Sentinel. The towel she had claimed to use after exiting the shower was also dry.

Further, detectives concluded that the marks on Mia’s neck showed more force than a 2-year-old child could presumably use, the Sentinel reports.

The medical examiner ultimately ruled the girl’s cause of death was homicide by strangulation and said it would have taken several minutes for her to be killed.

On Tuesday, DePasquale was ordered held without bond at the Seminole County Jail in Florida, her public defender, Timothy Caudill, confirms to PEOPLE.

DePasquale has pleaded not guilty, Caudill says.

“We’re very sad about this tragedy,” he tells PEOPLE, “and she’s very sad about the loss of her child.”

Caudill says that DePasquale’s 2-year-old son is in the care of family. The children’s father is in jail on unrelated charges, Click Orlando reports.