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Charges to be Filed in Shaken Baby Death

04-Dec-2015

An unresponsive 11-month-old girl prompted a 9-1-1 call that led to the arrest of the girl's mother and the mother's boyfriend on child abuse complaints. 

When emergency responders arrived, they found Nevaeh Estillita Brookens Roldan in cardiac arrest with multiple injuries, including two black eyes and bruises on her face, neck, back, and inner thigh. 

The baby girl was transported to the Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis’ Pediatric Intensive Care Unit with injuries consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Two days later, on her first birthday, the girl died.

Police arrested the baby's mother's boyfriend, Nathaniel Jamal Watkins, 25,on a child abuse complaint. Formal charges have not yet been filed, but will likely be upgraded to first degree murder. Watkins allegedly told police that he put the baby in the crib, and when she would not stop crying, he yelled at her before shaking her for "one to two minutes" until she fell limp. He says he then poured cold water over her face to try to revive her, but when she remained unresponsive, he thought she drowned. 

After that, he allegedly told police, he dressed the baby and laid her on a couch before leaving the room. He says he returned to find her lying on the floor, gasping for breath. He claims to have shaken her again before running to neighbors for help.

Also arrested in the case is the girl's mother, Hallelujah Brookens, 21.Police arrested her on a complaint of enabling child abuse after she told them that she was distrustful of Watkins after noticing injuries to her daughter--which included a black eye--but left the baby in his care anyway. Brookens allegedly told police that she left the baby with Watkins, whom she described as controlling and emotionally abusive--to attend a Job Corps class because she did not have any other options for the child's care.  

All three possible charges in this case--first degree murder, child abuse, and enabling child abuse--are punishable by life in prison. In other words, the mother who allegedly left her child in the care of an abusive man faces the same sentence as the man who allegedly murdered her child.      

Exactly one year ago today, I published an article in the Huffington Post dealing with this topic: "'Failure to Protect' Laws Punish Victims of Domestic Violence." Of course, we don't have all of the details or evidence in this case, but in similar cases, it seems a tragedy that a woman trying to better herself--by attending job corps classes or college classes or working--finds no other option but to leave her child with an abusive man. So many people say, "Well, they should have left him," but often, leaving is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. And perhaps working and getting an education are the woman's way of trying to make a better life for herself and her children and gain the resources to leave the abusive relationship. Certainly, society believes that it is the mother's ultimate duty to protect her children, and therefore she should be culpable for leaving them in a dangerous situation. But until we provide child care resources for abused women and their children, many will remain trapped by the conundrum--do I leave my child with an abuser in order to find an escape route, or do I remain home to protect my child and remove our ability to create the means of escape?

 



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