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Grandmother in Oklahoma accused of beating 3-year-old granddaughter to death, leaving her in a trash bin

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Paul Middlewood/Getty Images

An Oklahoma woman is in custody today facing first-degree murder by child abuse charges for the death of her 3-year-old granddaughter.

According to the police, 61-year-old Becky Vreeland of Oklahoma City had recently been granted custody of three grandchildren, all under 5 years old, including 3-year-old Riley Lynn Nolan. Then, late last month, Kyle Nolan, Vreeland's son and the father of the children, went to Vreeland's home to visit. When he inquired about Riley, he was told that she was sleeping. He then went looking for her and discovered her lifeless body in a trash can.

“We ended up finding her, we ended up finding her in the recycle bin,” said Nolan. “I can’t sleep at night. Every time I close my eyes, I just think about her.”

An official statement from Oklahoma City PD claims that when police arrived, they found Riley "in a residential trash receptacle" and that she "had obvious signs of trauma to her body."

They also claimed that she had been dead for some time before her body was discovered.

"The child had been dead for a period of time at least," MSgt. Gary Knight told reporters. "It hadn't just happened."

Riley's death has devastated her family and the local community.

“I just don’t understand what could have provoked anything and then once I found out how it happened, it killed me,” Nolan said. “And on top of it, I lose my mom, too.”

“I’ll always love my mom,” Nolan continued. “That’s my mom. She raised me. She did everything for me, and that’s why I never dreamed something like this could happen.”

Kyle Nolan had just been released from custody himself when he went to visit Riley and her two siblings at Vreeland's home. He and the mother of the children were arrested for child neglect last August when the two older Nolan kids were found wandering a mobile home park unattended.

Vreeland's neighbor, Marsha Brannum, is similarly bewildered by the events.

"I could have been some more assistance for her if she was having trouble," Brannum said. "That kind of shocks me. I don't understand it because she seemed like a very hardworking grandmother, and I could hear her play with the children in the backyard. I wish I had paid more attention."

One woman claims she did pay more attention and that she reported her concerns about Vreeland to DHS, to no avail. The woman, who remains anonymous, said, "This 100% could have been prevented and something needs to be done about this.”

“Her behavior was very impatient with the children, definitely not a normal grandmother situation,” said the woman.

“It's like you’re really helpless because you sound all the alarms, call all the people, and let them know and even have news stories about situations they are involved in, and nobody does anything.”

Vreeland denies killing Riley and insists that Riley fell into the garbage can. She was scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday. Her bond has been set at $5 million.

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