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ST. CHARLES • The mother of a 4-month-old girl who police say was sexually assaulted before being strangled in December is now charged in the child’s murder.

Jessica Lynn Howell, 25, of the first block of Mark Twain Court in O’Fallon, Mo., knew that her boyfriend, Jordan Lafayette Prince, had committed a sex offense against a minor, police said. She not only allowed him to have access to her baby girl, she encouraged him to rape the child, according to police.

Howell told police she sent a series of text messages to Prince encouraging the sexual assault of her daughter Ashlynn Lilith Peters, according to court documents filed Monday in St. Charles County.

Prince, 25, of the 3600 block of Fremont Drive in St. Charles, is facing charges of first-degree murder, abuse of a child and forcible sodomy.

First responders were called to Prince’s home Dec. 2 because Ashlynn was not breathing, police said. The baby was taken to one hospital, then flown to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, where she died about noon the next day.

An autopsy revealed the cause of death was asphyxiation, according to court records. The child also suffered serious injuries related to the sodomy that caused internal bleeding. Those injuries would have caused her death even without the strangulation, court documents say.

In addition, the baby had bruises to her chest, abdomen, left arm, back and legs. She also was the victim of blunt force trauma to the left side of her head, causing a cut to her ear and bleeding near her skull.

Police say that Howell had confirmed Prince’s record through an Internet search and had spoken to him about it. He was found guilty in an incident that happened in Idaho when Prince was a minor, authorities say. The victim was 4 years old.

Knowing this, Howell still took Ashlynn to Prince’s house to spend the night, police say. Prince was not the child’s father.

“This mother not only contributed to her daughter’s death, but also encouraged the baby’s killer to engage in some unspeakable acts,” said St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar.

Howell is charged with second-degree murder and abuse of a child. She previously was charged with child endangerment. Bail is set at $1 million.

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