Saturday, February 16, 2013
THE SHIELD OF GOLD, Ch. 15 Murderous Mom
In the year 2011, Florida mother Casey Anthony, widely believed to have killed her two-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony, was acquitted by a Florida jury of murdering her child. The accusation had been that, in order to free herself for more dating, Casey Anthony had done away with the child, who had proven to be inconvenient. The case described next has similar elements, with a different outcome.
Police were called to an apartment in our Bronx precinct with a report that the daughter of a young single mother was “not breathing.” In fact, when the officers arrived on the scene, they found the seven-year-old girl dead. She was lying on the bathroom floor, on her back in a resting position with her hands folded in front of her, as though she had been placed in a casket instead of on a bathroom floor. Although she was wet, she had on panties that were dry. It was a strange situation, quite possibly a crime scene.
As a homicide detective, I was called in to evaluate the scene. Although there was water in the bathtub, it was at most a foot deep, and it was hard to see how a healthy seven-year-old girl could possibly have drowned in it. We interviewed the mother, who stated that the daughter did not have any significant medical conditions that could have caused her to become unconscious or fall asleep in the tub.
This single mother’s story initially was that she herself had fallen asleep during the period in which her daughter was taking a bath. The mother claimed that she had taken pills for sleep and had not been awake for several hours. We looked for signs of forced entry into the apartment and found none. The mother claimed that no one else had a key to the apartment. She said, at first, that she had no boyfriends, although we soon found out that this was a lie.
The mother’s story did not make sense. How could a daughter this age drown in a foot of bathwater? Closer examination of the body revealed slight bruises on the upper chest area of the girl’s body. We quickly realized this was not the scene of an accident, but the scene of a crime.
Investigation revealed that the mother indeed did have a boyfriend, a disc jockey, a DJ at a local radio station, and her friends revealed that she was really somewhat of a party girl.
When we interviewed the DJ, he quickly requested a lawyer, and became wholly uncooperative.
We investigated her telephone calls during the period in question on this weekend and found a prolonged call to her mother and numerous other calls during this time when she had initially claimed she was asleep.
I flew to Chicago to interview the dead girl’s grandmother, the mother’s mother. She revealed that her daughter had not wanted to have this child, finding that the little girl inconvenienced her, especially on the weekends when she liked to party. When I asked the grandmother whether she could say for sure that her daughter would never have killed her granddaughter, the grandmother was unwilling to be that strong in that opinion.
We typically did not make an arrest in a murder case until we had gotten an indictment from a grand jury, a so-called “true bill.” In this case the grand jury indicted.
Between indictment and trial, there are often several pretrial hearings. While the mother was being held in the Riker’s Island detention facility, she made several comments to her cellmate, revealing– at the least– a feeling of guilt about what had happened to the child. The cellmate offered to help the District Attorney with the case by testifying to the mother’s comments, but wanted, unsurprisingly, something in return for this.
The D.A. Agreed to a deal with this informant, on the condition that she would wear a wire, so that a further conversation with the mother in the cell could be recorded, and that occurred. While the mother did not explicitly admit killing the child during those conversations, her comments as recorded, along with the forensic evidence, were enough for the jury to convict her of murder.
The mother’s defense attorney attempted to reduce the mothers responsibility for what happened to the daughter by noting that she was being medicated for bipolar disorder, what we used to call “manic-depressive,” but the jury did not think that this was sufficient to exonerate her.
Is there a lesson here? Perhaps it is that if you’re in jail, keep quiet. As we will see in the next case, of one who got away, silence can be golden.
Excerpted from THE SHIELD OF GOLD by Lenny Golino, former NYPD
detective, and Douglas Winslow Cooper. Published in 2012 by Outskirts Perss and available in paperback and ebook formats from outskirtspress.com, amazon.com, and bn.com.