NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Bronx child care worker has been indicted on a murder charge in the death of a toddler she was watching.
A grand jury charged Athena Skeeter with second-degree murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter, the district attorney’s office said.
Skeeter, 40, admitted throwing 20-month-old Cardell Williamson to the floor and repeatedly stepping on his stomach, prosecutors said.
The indictment was announced just hours after Skeeter’s lawyer, Michael Beatrice, said in court Thursday that his client wouldn’t testify before the grand jury.
The murder charge is an upgrade from the manslaughter charge on which Skeeter was arrested.
Beatrice said Skeeter would plead not guilty. The defense attorney added there have been no discussions with prosecutors about a possible plea deal.
“It’s much too soon,” he said to reporters, including WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell.
According to a court document, Skeeter told police that after the child’s father had dropped him off on Friday, she wrestled with the boy and threw him to the floor. She said she then stepped on him multiple times.
As Cornell reported, Skeeter insisted she did not use full force.
Skeeter told police Cardell acted differently after that — he threw up and his head kept tilting. She said she then put him in the bathtub and left him alone, according to police.
She told officers that when she returned, the toddler’s head was in the water and steam was coming up, police said.
Police responding to a 911 call found Cardell lying on a bed, struggling to breathe. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
“I feel betrayed,” the boy’s father, Carlyle Williamson, said. “For my baby to be abused the way he was is devastating to me.”
The medical examiner said the cause of death was homicide by blunt force trauma to the boy’s head and torso, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported. A source told 1010 WINS the child was also severely scalded.
“She claimed she put him in a tub with hot water,” Williamson told CBS 2’s Matt Kozar. “When I saw the pictures, my baby’s burnt all the way from one side to another.”
Williamson said his son would sometimes come home with bruises, but there was always some kind of explanation for the injuries. Now he wonders if he missed a pattern of abuse, Kozar reported.
“She always gave me some bogus story how he fell,” Williamson said. “One time, his shoes were too tight, so he fell down two or three flights of steps.”
Family, friends and neighbors put together a memorial for the boy with candles and some of his favorite toys.
“I thought my baby was safe, and instead I find out he was not safe” Williamson said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said Skeeter’s child care operation had both state and city oversight. He promised a full investigation.
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