Friday, August 17, 2001

Two boys charged in girl's beating death

Believed to be youngest indicted for murder here

By William A. Weathers, Dan Horn and Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A 13-year-old baby sitter and an 11-year-old boy Thursday were charged in the brutal beating death of an 8-year-old girl at her Northside home Wednesday.

        The boys are believed to be the youngest people ever accused of murder in Hamilton County. Because both are younger than 14, they cannot be tried as adults in Ohio and would face at most, if convicted, detainment until age 21.

[photo] Hellium Powell's apartment in Northside is above the apartment where police found an 8-year-old girl beaten to death.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        The baby sitter, who identified himself as the girl's cousin in chilling 11:35 a.m. emergency calls for help, also was charged with three juvenile counts of rape. It was unclear, however, if the sexual abuse occurred at the same time the girl was beaten to death, police said.

        Takeya Bryant was pronounced dead about noon Wednesday at Children's Hospital Medical Center after her baby sitter called 911 to say the girl was unresponsive, even though he had thrown cold water on her.

        Takeya, three siblings and the baby sitter were in the basement apartment in the 4200 block of Georgia Avenue, Northside, at the time of the 911 call.

        The children's mother, African Evans, 29, was at work in Clifton.

        The four siblings previously had been taken from their mother after she was convicted of child endangerment last December for leaving them unsupervised, Cincinnati police and Hamilton County officials said.

        The courts placed the children with a grandmother, Cincinnati Police Capt. Vince Demasi said. But the grandmother, at some point, returned the children to the mother without authorization, he said.

        "You get to the point in this job where you think you can't be shocked,” Prosecutor Mike Allen said. “But with something like this, if you're not shocked, there's something wrong with you.

        “This is the worst.”

        He said no one in his office can recall anyone this young being charged in a murder.        

Signs of abuse

        Firefighters who responded to the 911 call Wednesday found Takeya unresponsive, and their attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful.

        Her body had signs of beating, physical abuse and blunt trauma, Cincinnati Police Lt. Roger Wolf said.

        “It was pretty brutal,” he said.

        The boys were each charged with juvenile delinquency murder counts following a police investigation and an autopsy by the Hamilton County Coroner's Office.

        Investigators believe the girl was beaten to death during an argument with the boys, Mr. Allen said. Evidence of a sexual assault was found, but it is unclear when the assault may have occurred.

        The 13-year-old is a relative of the victim, but not a sibling, Capt. Demasi said, declining to elaborate.

        The remaining children have been placed in foster care, Capt. Demasi said.

        Department of Job and Family Services employees were stunned Thursday to learn of the girl'sdeath.

        “It has devastated our caseworkers,” family services spokeswoman Laurie Petrie said. “I can't even think about this child's last hours. It brings tears to my eyes.”

        On recording of the Wednesday 911 call, the baby sitter requests an ambulance for his cousin, who is not breathing.

        “I need an ambulance over here right now,” the boy says. “ My little cousin. I don't know if she's passed out. She threw up out of her nose.”

        Talking to another operator, the boy said: “We tried to wake her up. She won't. We tried to throw cold water on her. She won't wake up.”

        The operator was instructing the boy on how to provide mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when firefighters arrived.

        The family has lived in a one-bedroom basement apartment in the 30-unit complex on Georgia Avenue for about a year. Neighbors said the mother lived there with her two girls and two boys; the youngest was a 4- or 5-year-old boy.

        The children lived with their grandparents during the school year, the mother told neighbors.

        The 8-year-old girl looked exactly like her mother, said neighbors, who described the girl as shy and timid.

        “What I heard today, I would never have thought,” said Hellium Powell, 27, who lives upstairs. “They all seemed so close-knit.”

        When Takeya turned 8 a few months ago, her mother had an outdoor barbecue for friends, family and neighbors, he said.

        “You'd think it was a block party with all these kids in here,” Mr. Powell said.

        Each week, the children's mother dressed the four children in their Sunday best and took them to church, neighbors said.

        But Wendell Gray, a 33-year-old sheet metal worker who lives across the hall from the family, said he was troubled that the children were left home alone so often.

        He said he would sometimes see the children's mother on the No. 17 bus to Clifton, where she worked two jobs, at Children's Hospital Medical Center and Christ Hospital.

        Earlier in the summer, Mr. Powell saw a 17- or 18-year old girl baby-sitting for the kids. But not lately.

        “(The mother) was a hard worker. The only problem I had was that she sometimes didn't come home and they were home alone, and anything can happen,” Mr. Gray said. “When she left in the morning, someone — I don't know if it was an 11-year-old or a 13-year-old — would just start barking out orders.”

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