An Auburn woman was charged Wednesday with murder in connection with the Newport-area death of her 2-year-old daughter, just hours before the child’s funeral.

Leanna Norris, 24, was arrested Wednesday morning and taken to the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor, according to Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland. Her arrest followed an indictment returned last week by a Penobscot County grand jury.

Loh Grenda, who turned 2 years old Feb. 15, was declared dead after police responded to a call about 3 a.m. June 24 at the home of her grandparents on Mount Pleasant Road in the Penobscot County town of Stetson. The toddler was found dead in her mother’s car at that home.

Loh’s funeral was held at noon Wednesday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the Cumberland County town of Bridgton.

Police believe the toddler’s death happened in Newport late on the night of June 23, hours before the body was discovered, according to Lt. Chris Coleman of the Maine State Police. Coleman said it appears the toddler’s body was taken to bordering Stetson, a small town of about 1,200 people off Interstate 95 about halfway between Waterville and Bangor.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has not determined the cause of the child’s death but has ruled it a homicide, according to McCausland.

Norris was arrested by detectives with the North Division of the Major Crimes Unit at an undisclosed medical facility in Rockport, where she was receiving treatment, according to McCausland. Coleman would not say why Norris was hospitalized or provide additional details.

In a statement released June 25, police said Norris was hospitalized after Loh’s death but provided no further details.

Norris is scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning at the Penobscot County Judicial Center in Bangor.

An obituary for Loh published Wednesday in the Bridgton News described the toddler as having a beautiful smile and sweet personality, and said she was fond of horses and dogs.

“Loh especially loved her cat, Iggy, and bunny, Jefferson,” according to the obituary. “She loved music and enjoyed playing her own guitar along with her Daddy. Her favorite color was purple. Loh loved counting numbers, her books, blocks, dinosaurs and cheese.”

During the investigation, police interviewed those they thought might have insight into the relationship between Norris and Loh, including Loh’s father, Michael Grenda, who lives in Auburn. Norris also lives in Auburn.

On the night Loh died, Grenda made a series of Facebook posts in which he expressed concern, saying he didn’t know where Norris had taken Loh. In one of the posts, he described Norris as unstable.

Loh’s aunt, Meghan Grenda-Perron, who said she kept in touch with Norris via email, previously described Norris as quiet and shy and said she was a loving mother.

Attempts to contact Michael Grenda and other family members Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Under Maine law, the definition of murder is to intentionally or knowingly cause the death of another human being, cause another human being to commit suicide, or cause the death of a human being while engaged in conduct that manifests a depraved indifference to the value of human life. The penalty for murder is 25 years to life.

There were 26 homicides in Maine in 2012, and 28 in 2011, according to statistics from the Department of Public Safety.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com