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Friday, February 13, 2015

Eleven-Year-Old Girl Accused of Murdering 2-Month-Old Baby

     On February 5, 2015, Trina Whitehead, a mother of four, left her 2-month-old daughter Zuri overnight with a friend in Wickliffe, Ohio, a suburban community within the Cleveland metropolitan area. Trina had known the woman she left Zuri with for six years. The 39-year-old babysitter, the mother of an eleven-year-old girl, had watched her friend's children before when she needed a night off. (The babysitter and her daughter have not been identified by the media.)

     At three the next morning, February 6, the babysitter fell asleep on her living room couch. Her daughter, who had also been on the sofa with the baby, took the infant to the second floor while her mother slept. She returned to the couch forty-five minutes later with the baby in her arms.

     The adult babysitter, awakened by her daughter, was shocked by the sight of Zuri. The infant's head was bleeding and terribly swollen.

     The eleven-year-old girl's mother dialed 911, and to the dispatcher, reported that the 2-month-old baby in her care had trouble breathing and wouldn't open her eyes.

     Paramedics and police officers arrived at the house a few minutes later. An ambulance crew rushed the severely injured infant to nearby Lake West Hospital. From that medical facility the baby was flown to the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland where she died on the operating table.

     Police officers took the eleven-year-old girl to the Lake County Juvenile Detention Center for questioning.

     A forensic pathologist with the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office in Cleveland determined the infant's cause of death to be "multiple blunt force trauma to the head and torso." The tiny victim had suffered "massive brain injuries, severe damage to the liver, and external bleeding." The coroner ruled the baby's death a homicide.

     On Monday February 9, 2015, Juvenile Court Judge Karen Lawson, at the eleven-year-old's detention hearing, formally charged the girl with murder. In Ohio, persons under the age of 14 cannot be charged as adults. As a result, this case will proceed through the juvenile criminal justice system. If convicted, the accused pre-teen could be held at a State Department of Youth Services Facility until she reached the age of 21.

     The young murder suspect, represented by a public defender at her detention hearing, sat quietly at the defense table with her head resting on her folded arms. According to a detective who had questioned her, the girl showed no remorse for what investigators believed she had done to the baby. (The authorities have not identified the murder weapon or exactly how the crime had been committed.)

     In 2012, 20 children in the United States under the age of twelve were accused of murder. Criminologists believe that the number of pre-teen murder defendants has been on the rise over the past several years. No one is quite sure why. This case may not help answer that question. 

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