Father pleads not guilty to charges in daughter’s death

The man who police say called to report his 5-month-old daughter as kidnapped before changing his story and leading investigators to her body pleaded not guilty to two felonies and an enhancement Thursday, according to the District Attorney's office.

Police arrested Anthony Theard, 24, for manslaughter Friday, spokesman Neville Gittens said. On Thursday he was arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter and child abuse, with an enhancement of inflicting corporal injury on a child, resulting in death.

Theard originally reported his daughter, Camille Ferguson, was kidnapped out of his car when he ran into a smoke shop on 18th and Mission streets on August 27. But three days later, as Theard was in custody for a parole violation related to the alleged kidnapping, he led investigators to the body in a rough, remote area of McLaren Park, police reported.

According to District Attorney's office spokeswoman Debbie Mesloh, Theard changed his story and told investigators that he had agreed to watch Camille while her mother, Leidi Ferguson, was at work. Camille had a cold, and Theard said he put her to sleep on her belly so she could breathe easier. When he checked on her later, she was dead.

Theard was on parole for an April conviction of attempted pimping. Parole agents arrested him for child endangerment on August 29, after hearing that he had left Camille in the car.

The San Francisco Medical Examiner's office has not yet put forth a cause of death for Camille. Medical Examiner's office spokesman Steve Gelman said toxicology reports on Camille could still take weeks to complete. Police announced Thursday, however, that her death was not natural.

Theard exercised his right to a speedy trial Thursday, meaning he will appear at a preliminary hearing to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to try him within 10 days.

On Thursday evening, Leidi Ferguson was not immediately available. Theard's mother, who did not want to give her name, said the family is “basically in a daze.”

“We're just trying to get through the funeral first. As far as everything else, that's going to be secondary. We just want to give Camille a proper burial,” she said.

amartin @examiner.com

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