A mother was convicted Wednesday of murder in the death of her 4-year-old girl who was tied to her bed with a jump rope, beaten, drugged and starved.
Jurors deliberated less than an hour before finding Carlotta Brett-Pierce guilty of the most serious charge in the death of her child, Marchella, in a case that shined some light on fresh cracks in the city's child welfare system.
Two child welfare caseworkers have also been charged in the girl's death, among the first social workers in the country to be held criminally responsible for the death of a child on their watch. They have pleaded not guilty.
Brett-Pierce was on the radar of the city's child welfare system after she gave birth to a boy who tested positive for drugs. She was in drug counseling, but no abuse cases were opened, and the Administration for Children's Services admits it did not do enough to help her or her three children.
Marchella was born premature with severe medical problems — she had a collapsed lung and a breathing tube — and spent most of her life in hospitals, according to testimony. At home with her mother and grandmother, she was bound to her broken plastic toddler bed with a jump rope, and was given food she could not digest, according to testimony. She was also beaten and drugged.
Seven months later she was dead, her ribs visible through bruised, scarred and scratched skin. When police found her Sept. 2, 2010, she had 60 adult doses of Claritin and 30 doses of Benadryl in her system, a medical examiner said. Her stomach contained one kernel of corn. She weighed 18.8 pounds, half the weight of an average child her age.
"To me, at the time, it didn't look bad," Brett-Pierce said while testifying in the trial. "She looked like a child who wasn't sitting on her booty in the hospital all day. She was outside running around for the first time in her life."
As she was led away, Brett-Pierce said she was charged falsely. Her attorney, Alan Stutman, said he would appeal, and said the case was more about a system that failed a mother who needed help.
Brett-Pierce faces life in prison when she is sentenced June 6 by Brooklyn state Supreme Court judge Patricia DiMango, who has presided over other high profile child abuse cases and is known for giving stiff sentences.
Brett-Pierce's mother, Loretta Brett, was charged with manslaughter in the girl's death. A jury was expected to begin deliberations in that case Thursday.
The city's child welfare agency made a series of improvements on how it handles cases following the girl's death. The case recalled the notorious 2006 death of Nixzmary Brown, who was beaten and starved to death under the noses of child welfare workers. Her mother and step-father were convicted in her death, no case workers were charged.
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