A woman staying with her 4-year-old daughter in a Queens homeless shelter became enraged when she found the girl squirting hand lotion on the floor, then hit her in the face and stomach and threw her against a wall, authorities said Saturday.
Latoya Curry, 35, was arrested Friday on charges of second-degree murder, assault and endangering the welfare of a child, the Queens District Attorney's Office said. It wasn't immediately clear if Curry had a lawyer, and no contact information for her family was available. She could face up to 25 years to life in prison.
Police found the girl, 4-year-old Linayjah Meraldo, Thursday after responding to a call at the Briarwood Family Residence, a temporary housing shelter for homeless families on 134th Street. The child's four siblings were in school when she was found; her mother said she kept the girl home because she wasn't feeling well, according to a source familiar with the case.
Prosecutors said Curry flew into a rage Wednesday night, striking Linayjah so hard that she dislodged a tooth. She then dragged the girl into another room, threw her against a wall and onto a bed, the District Attorney's Office said.
Prosecutors say the girl cried and said her stomach hurt but then fell asleep. In the morning, the girl awoke with a slight fever and later took a morning nap, but she didn't wake up, they said.
An autopsy showed Linayjah died of blunt force trauma to her torso and had internal injuries including multiple recent and healed rib fractures, a torn small intestine, internal bleeding and extensive bruising, prosecutors said. The autopsy noted she also appeared malnourished, prosecutors said.
There were no other adults living in the unit where the family was staying.
The mother initially told police Meraldo was involved in a physical altercation with a sibling -- "a tousling thing," she called it, according to the source. The source said the mother later said the child had fallen, and that the version of events she told investigators kept changing.
The family had lived at Briarwood for nearly a year.
The Department of Health and Human Services called Meraldo's death "terribly disturbing." The agency said in a statement it was working closely with police.
The child's death comes less than a week after a 3-year-old girl was found dead in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, saying the girl died from blunt impact to her head and torso. Her 20-year-old stepfather was arrested on a murder charge.
After the Brooklyn girl's death, Mayor de Blasio called for a thorough investigation.
-- Melissa Russo contributed to this report.