NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man was arrested Tuesday in connection to the death of his stepdaughter in Queens.
32-year-old Mark Jenkins avoided looking at the cameras and said nothing as he was led away in an orange jumpsuit from the 107th police precinct. He stands accused of murdering and assaulting three-year-old Bella Edwards.
Police said officers responded to a call Monday night at an apartment on Beach 105th Street in Seaside about an unconscious and unresponsive child.
When they arrived, officers found Jenkins in the apartment as he tried to give Bella CPR.
Bella was then taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Sources tell CBS2 the child had injuries consistent with sex abuse. She also had extensive bruising on her body, which Jenkins told officers may have been from him performing CPR.
“Bella was a beautiful soul, vibrant,” family member Quintina Thorn told CBS2. “That’s how everybody remembers her.”
Police say Jenkins had been alone with the child for eight hours and he was the one who called 911.
“Shocking. Very shocking,” said neighbor Doris King. “She looked like a little girl that was well taken care of and dressed nicely.”
“It’s horrible,” said neighbor Barbara Buffolino. “No one wants to hear that happen here.”
“I’m just really devastated that it happened,” said neighbor Idris Ellams.
Another neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said he never saw any signs of abuse.
“She always had her in her arms going upstairs,” he said. “She seemed happy when I saw her last week. She was smiling.”
Bella’s mother Shamikaa Gonzalez posted messages about her death on Facebook.
“Bella I’m so sorry I wasn’t [there] to protect you. This feels like a bad dream I can’t wake up from. You was loved by everyone and shared so many funny memories. I’m going to miss all the times you kissed and hugged me every day and miss hearing you say ‘Hi Loggy I’m your big sister.’ Please watch over me, Logan and the family. We all love you so much,” Gonzalez posted.
Gonzalez added she is planning a candle lighting and balloon release for Bella Wednesday night. She also has a 3-month-old who was removed this morning by the Administration for Children’s Services. There have been no past ACS investigations involving the children, according to the administration.
“Our top priority is protecting the safety and wellbeing of all children in New York City. As soon as this family came to our attention last night, we immediately launched an investigation with the NYPD and we secured the safety of the other child in this home,” ACS Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs Eric Ferrero said in a statement.
The Medical Examiner ruled Bella’s death a homicide caused by blunt-force injuries to the abdomen.
Jenkins, of Queens, is charged with second degree murder and assault. Sources tell CBS2 the sex assault allegation is still under investigation, but Jenkins was taken to a hospital before his arrest Tuesday for DNA collection.
If convicted of the current charges, Jenkins faces up to 25 years to life in prison.