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Mother, boyfriend arrested after 7-year-old girl falls out of SUV, fatally struck on California freeway

The child fell out of an open window of an SUV as her mother was driving on Interstate 5 and she was “struck by several vehicles” early Saturday, officials said.

A 7-year-old girl died after falling from a moving SUV onto the freeway in South California, and her mother and the woman’s boyfriend have been charged in connection with her death. 

The child’s mother Veronda Gladney, 28, of Lancaster, and her boyfriend Michael Branch, 39, of Hawthorne, were arrested Saturday and charged with child endangerment after the girl was found dead in the roadway, according to California Highway Patrol. 

A 911 call came in around 3:30 a.m. Saturday about an “unknown object being struck,” blocking the roadway northbound on Interstate 5 at Weldon Canyon Road, according to the California Highway Patrol incident report.

Highway Patrol officers arrived to the scene and determined the object was a child who was “struck by several vehicles” after falling out of out of an open window of a moving 1999 Lincoln Navigator, with Gladney being the driver. 

“As a result, she sustained fatal injuries,” the report said. The circumstances surrounding how she fell are under investigation. 

Gladney was charged with a felony and misdemeanor count each of child abuse causing death and a single felony of vehicular manslaughter, court records show. Meanwhile, Branch, was charged with one misdemeanor count of child abuse, a Los Angeles County District Attorney Office spokesperson said to NBC News.

Both pleaded not guilty Wednesday, the spokesperson said.

Gladney is being held at Century Regional Detention Facility on $100,00 bail. Her preliminary hearing is set for July 13. 

Branch was released on his own recognizance on Wednesday, jail records show.

Lawyer information for the pair was not immediately available.

Any witnesses or anyone with further information are encouraged to contact the investigating officer, California Highway Patrol’s Newhall Area office at (661) 600-1600. 

This story was originally published on NBCNewscom.