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Mother charged in death of Bucks 2-year-old

A 24-year-old Bucks County woman charged with beating her 2-year-old daughter to death told police that she "lost it" when she began kicking the toddler.

A 24-year-old Bucks County woman charged with beating her 2-year-old daughter to death told police that she "lost it" when she began kicking the toddler.

Kayla Moore was arrested Tuesday night in the death of Athena Wolfe, who underwent emergency surgery to relieve swelling on her brain Sunday but died the next day at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia medical examiner ruled the death a homicide caused by blunt-force trauma.

Officials said the girl's injuries were so severe, they were more like those of someone involved in a car accident.

"Our theory was, Mom was under a lot of stress, and she just snapped," Lt. Henry Ward of the Falls Township Police Department said at a news conference Wednesday.

Moore first told police that her daughter had been injured in a fall while playing, but later admitted she had kicked the toddler in the head and torso multiple times Sunday afternoon before calling an ambulance. She told dispatchers her daughter was in cardiac arrest.

Responders found Moore attempting CPR on the girl, who was not breathing and had no pulse, Ward said.

Moore faces charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, and endangering the welfare of a child, according to court records. Officials had not yet decided the degree of homicide with which Moore would be charged.

"Very serious, very disturbing," Ward said, "to see this small child in the condition she was in."

CHOP doctors described the 2-year-old as "terribly battered and injured," said a court affidavit. Doctors at Aria Health-Bucks County Campus, where Wolfe was taken originally, said the toddler also appeared malnourished.

The girl's 4-year-old sister was also in the house at the time, but did not witness the assault and showed no signs of abuse, police said. She is in the custody of Bucks County social services.

The girls lived with their mother and Moore's boyfriend in the 1400 block of Sweetbriar Road.

At home, things were "tight," Ward said. Moore, who stayed home with her children, slept on an air mattress, though the children had a bed.

She appeared "drained" when talking to police, Ward said. She told them her daughter was prone to tantrums, but she did not say what led her to begin kicking the girl Sunday.

Moore, who moved to Bucks County from Western Pennsylvania last April, has no criminal record. There were no signs of drug or alcohol use, Ward said. Police interviewed the boyfriend Tuesday night, but say they do not believe he is linked to the death.

Police said that there had been no previous disturbances at the address and that county social services had never been involved with the family.

The children's father lives near Pittsburgh, and a third daughter lives with family in the western part of the state.

Moore was being held without bail at the Bucks County jail Wednesday. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. 610-313-8205 @McDanielJustine

Staff writer Emily Babay contributed to this article.