Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Foster father indicted for murder

Charged in 1-year-old girl's death

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Hamilton County foster father could spend the rest of his life in prison after a baby girl in his care was severely shaken and later died. A Hamilton County grand jury on Monday indicted Norman White, 37, of Westwood on a charge of special felony murder and felonious assault for the death of 1-year-old Mikinah Smith.

The grand jury met Monday morning as Mikinah's family laid her to rest.

Mikinah died last Tuesday at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, just one day after she and her twin brother, Michael Smith, celebrated their first birthday.

Doctors at the hospital also said Michael had a broken bone that might have healed without treatment. None of White's charges relate to the baby boy.

White was home alone March 15 with the twins, said his wife, Robin White. He took Mikinah to the hospital after she had trouble breathing. Officials there suspected Mikinah had been abused and alerted authorities.

White was arrested that day on a charge of child neglect, but Hamilton County prosecutors took the case to the grand jury after Mikinah died.

The indictment accuses White of shaking and dropping Mikinah, which caused fatal injuries.

White was frustrated because Mikinah would not stop crying, said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen.

"He should not have been in a position like this," Allen said. "It's a shame we have members of society that engage in conduct like that."

The Whites, who married 21/2 years ago, have been foster parents since last August, Robin White said.

They had another foster child before the twins, but no allegations of abuse were made, according to the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services.

Court records obtained by the Enquirer show that White became a foster father even though he was charged with domestic violence in 1992.

The Hamilton County Municipal Court case was dismissed after he completed anger management counseling, according to court records.

A spokeswoman for the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, which oversees the county's foster parenting program, is aware of the dismissed charge.

"Dismissal of a domestic violence charge would not disqualify somebody from being a foster parent," said Laurie Petrie, the spokeswoman.

A person must be convicted of a crime for it to stop them from becoming a foster parent, said Jon Allen, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

White is being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center on $50,000 bond, set after he was charged with child neglect. He'll be arraigned again this week on the new charges.

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com

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