Thursday, July 17, 2003

Mother of accused 13-year-old also charged in infant's death

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - A mother of five, whose teenage son is accused of killing his infant half-brother, now also has been charged in connection with the baby's death.

Authorities on Wednesday arrested the 28-year-old woman, booked her into the Butler County Jail and placed her remaining three children with a family friend; her 13-year-old son remains in the county Juvenile Detention Center.

A grand jury indicted the teen as a "serious youthful offender," so he faces a juvenile sentence plus possible time in adult prison if he is convicted of murder and child endangering. His mother is accused of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering; she faces up to 15 years in prison if she is found guilty.

Prosecutor Robin Piper alleges the woman "indirectly" caused the baby's death. "The teenager may have caused the death, but the mother also shares a responsibility in this situation for even allowing that teenager, with his history and his propensity for violence, to be caring for this young baby," Piper said. The mother has told reporters the teen had previously been abusive toward younger siblings. Relatives and neighbors said the woman often left the children alone.

The Enquirer is not identifying the family because the accused teen is a juvenile.

The teen's lawyer, Brad Carmella, said he would seek dismissal of the charges against his client on procedural grounds.

On the night of June 16, the woman left the 13-year-old to care for four siblings, ages 10, 3, 2, and 13 months. When she returned to her South Eighth Street apartment, she called 911 to report that the youngest child was not breathing.

The county coroner ruled the baby died after a powerful blow that ruptured his heart. Court records show the boy told police he struck the baby across the back with a 2-foot-long piece of metal bed framing. The coroner found bruises that could be consistent with such an assault. The coroner also found healed burns on the child.

The children's mother told reporters she had been gone only about 30 minutes before the baby died, and authorities have questioned that time frame. And, earlier that evening, the woman had picked up her estranged husband from the Butler County Jail, despite a court order she obtained to keep him away from her.

On Wednesday, Piper declined to reveal what investigators learned about the mother's activities that night and how long she was gone, but he said, "I am confident that, once that evidence is laid out to a jury, they'll understand why the grand jury recommended the charges that it did."

The mother is to appear July 25 before Common Pleas Judge H.J. Bressler. Her son's next Juvenile Court date is July 29.


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