‘Horrible nightmare’: Babysitter arrested in beating death of Sandy Springs toddler

Two-year-old Fallon Fridley (left) died Dec. 9 while in the care of her babysitter, Kirstie Hannah Flood, according to Sandy Springs police.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News / Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Channel 2 Action News / Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Two-year-old Fallon Fridley (left) died Dec. 9 while in the care of her babysitter, Kirstie Hannah Flood, according to Sandy Springs police.

Two-year-old Fallon Fridley loved animals, just like her mother.

It was evident to Samantha Shelton, the CEO of Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelters, that Fallon was growing to be tender-hearted and kind in the example set by her mother, employee Kristin Fridley Gantt. The toddler already had practice taking care of animals in need, Shelton said, and she may have even followed her mother’s lead to become a veterinary technician.

That possibility ended Wednesday when the 2-year-old was killed at a Sandy Springs apartment while in the care of a babysitter, according to police. Sandy Springs police have accused 29-year-old Kirstie Hannah Flood of malice murder in the child’s beating death.

“You just want to wake up,” Shelton said, still reeling nearly one week later. “This is just a horrible, horrible nightmare. This is not real.”

Flood was arrested Friday, two days after Fallon was found unresponsive at the woman’s apartment on Monterey Parkway in Sandy Springs. The toddler was rushed to a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta location, where she was pronounced dead, according to police.

Fallon Fridley loved animals and took after her veterinary technician mother, Kristin Findley Gantt, according to friends.

Credit: Family photo

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Credit: Family photo

Flood had been Fallon’s full-time babysitter since August, but she had been a friend of the family for years and was known as a loving mother. It would have been impossible for Gantt to know what was coming, Shelton said.

“It’s one thing to lose your child to an illness or an accident you can’t control, but to have someone you knew and trusted harm your child, kill your child,” Shelton said. “It’s going to be a long road to recovery. Our hearts are so heavy.”

An emotional Gantt, speaking Tuesday with Channel 2 Action News, said Fallon was “the light of my life, the love of my life.”

According to an arrest warrant, Flood initially told police the toddler hit her head on a slide at a park and she put her to bed because she was acting strangely. She didn’t wake up. Gantt said the babysitter called her, crying hysterically, and relayed the same details, Channel 2 reported.

Doctors, however, determined the injuries were not consistent with that account, and an autopsy was ordered.

The autopsy showed the girl had “suffered severe injuries that resulted in her death during her care by the suspect,” Sandy Springs police said Tuesday. That included a massive skull fracture and lacerations to the liver, spleen and colon, according to the warrant.

Investigators searched Flood’s phone and found internet searches for “what type of people enjoy abusing other people’s children” and “what does it mean to have a sudden urge to beat a child that’s not yours,” according to the warrant.

Kristin Fridley Gantt talks about her daughter, who died last week. She said Fallon was “the light of my life, the love of my life.”

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

“It’s like she snapped,” Gantt said during the interview. “It’s like this evil was in front of my face for years and I never saw it.”

Shelton said her Furkids team has seen too much cruelty in their line of work as animal rescue workers, but Fallon’s loss is unspeakable.

“We’ve seen the worst of humanity, we thought, but now we really have experienced it,” she said.

The Sandy Springs Police Department has made an arrest following a homicide investigation of a 2 year old child killed...

Posted by Sandy Springs Police on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

It was not the first time Flood has been the subject of a police investigation.

Flood, who is originally from Smyrna, was arrested five times before her 21st birthday, according to Cobb County records. The charges ranged from battery to alcohol use and drug possession.

She was last arrested during a November 2012 traffic stop after she was found in possession of alprazolam, the common name for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, and did not have a prescription, court records show.

She pleaded guilty to a drug charge and was sentenced to three years probation. In October 2013, a judge revoked Flood’s probation after she failed to comply with certain conditions, including submitting to a drug screen, paying fines and fees, and completing 150 hours of community service.

Flood spent 15 days in jail before she was released to the supervision of her probation officer, records show.

Flood now faces two counts of felony murder and a single count each of malice murder, aggravated battery and cruelty to children in the first degree in connection with Fallon’s death. She has been held in the Fulton County Jail without bond since Friday.

Some of her friends spoke with Channel 2 and defended Flood, saying she is “an amazing mother” and “would never hurt a child.” She has an 8-month-old son and 4-year-old daughter, according to police.

“Children are her whole world,” friend Sheri Travis told the news station.

Even before news of the arrest went public Tuesday, Shelton said Gantt has benefitted from an outpouring of support. A GoFundMe page she established to help the grieving mother with medical and funeral expenses quickly reached its initial goal of $25,000, and donations keep coming.

A GoFundMe account was set up to help the family with medical and funeral expenses.

Credit: Family photo

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Credit: Family photo

“My heart is filled with gratitude to the friends and supporters behind Furkids that have gathered together,” Shelton said. “We stand absolutely united behind her. We need justice for Fallon.”

Others offered their condolences and uplifting thoughts on the fundraising page.

“We are so sorry for this to happen to such an angel of a child. It’s so hard to understand how an innocent child is here one day and gone the next. Be comforted to know she is now running and playing with other angels,” one commenter wrote.

Another commented: “No words can take away the pain of your loss of your precious little girl.”

Fallon will be honored at a memorial service Thursday at Poole Funeral Home in Woodstock.

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