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Nixzmary Brown's Mother, Stepfather Plead Not Guilty In Murder Case

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The mother and stepfather of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, whose death last month stunned the city and led to a major revamping of the city's Administration for Children's Services, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges at their arraignment Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Nixzmary's stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, and her mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, will be tried separately.

Rodriguez was arraigned on a number of charges, including second-degree murder, unlawful imprisonment and sex abuse. Police charge he beat Nixzmary to death last month after years of abuse.

Investigators say Nixzmary was sometimes tied to a chair inside the family's Brooklyn apartment and left in a so-called "dirty room."

However, Rodriguez' lawyer insisted in court Wednesday that someone else was to blame for the child’s death, but would not identify the person.

In a bizarre twist, the attorney also said Rodriguez wants to create a fund for abused children so that people will intervene "when it counts."

"I believe in the end he's going to be exonerated. He cares very much for his children, he cared very much for Nixzmary,” said Rodriguez’ lawyer Jeffrey Schwartz. “In addition to that, I have discussed with him and we are going to formally announce, I guess at this point would be as good a time as any, we are starting a fund to raise charity, or just to raise funds for abused children."

The girl's mother also was arraigned on second-degree murder charges stemming from Nixzmary death. Police say she did nothing to stop Rodriguez from abusing her daughter.

"In the trial, it is the jury, not the court of public opinion, that will decide on whether or not she's guilty," said Santiago's lawyer Robert Abrams. "I am fully confident that she'll be declared not guilty by a jury."

While neither attorney would comment on the specifics of their defense, each may end up trying to lay the blame on the other parent.

Under the current law, if convicted, Rodriguez and Santiago face 25 years to life. But lawmakers in Albany are proposing legislation that would mandate a life sentence without parole for a parent or guardian convicted of causing the death of a child.

Cesar Rodriguez is due back in Brooklyn Supreme Court at the end of this month. Nixzaliz Santiago will be back at the end of March.
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