Mother Charged in Death of Tiny Brooklyn 4-Year-Old

Police allegedly found marijuana in apartment

By John Noel, Melissa Russo and Alice McQuillan
|  Saturday, Sep 4, 2010  |  Updated 10:23 AM EDT
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Carlotta Brett-Pierce (inset) was arrested in connection with the death of her 4-year-old daughter.

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A Brooklyn mother has been charged in connection with the death of her ailing 4-year-old daughter -- who weighed only about 15 pounds and had been punished by being tied down with twine, officials said Friday.

Carlotta Pierce, 30, has been charged with assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child, police said. Further charges are possible.

Despite an inconclusive autopsy, apparent bruises on little Marchella Pierce's body prompted police to take her mother into custody Thursday evening after investigators allegedly found marijuana in her Bedford Stuyvesant apartment, sources said.

Marchella, who suffered from congenital respiratory problems and had a tracheotomy tube, died at the Madison Street home Thursday morning after her mother delayed calling 911 for more than an hour after the girl fell unconscious, sources said.

The mother admitted that she had punished Marchella in the past by  tying her to her bed with twine when she became rambunctious, an admission underscored by marks on the little girl's ankles, sources said. 

Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city's medical examiner, said further tests and medical records are needed to determine exactly how Marchella Pierce died.

Marchella had spent most of her young life in medical institutions, being released to her mother only last February, sources said.  While in these hospitals, the little girl, who had been born prematurely with undersized lungs, had always been grossly thin for her age, sources said.

Her death has prompted an investigation by the city's Administration for Children's Services, which had been monitoring the  household after Pierce gave birth to a son last year who had drugs in his system, sources said. ACS appeared to blame a subcontractor whom the agency said had failed to visit the family two to three times a week, as required. 

“ACS assumed responsibility for this case when the preventive agency’s responsibility ended," said ACS spokeswoman Laura Postiglione. " Workers visited the family throughout the summer. ACS is continuing a full investigation of the case. We will work with the other children from the family as they adjust to their new foster family.”

The girl's father, who doesn't live with the family, said he saw nothing amiss and doesn't believe Carlotta would harm the girl.

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