Updated 09/04/2010 10:28 AM
Brooklyn Mother Charged In Connection With Underweight Daughter's Death
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As the medical examiner said that the preliminary autopsy on a four-year-old Brooklyn girl yielded inconclusive results, police arrested and charged her mother on Friday in connection with the death.
Carlotta Brett-Pierce, 30, seen above, was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of her daughter, Marchella.
Brett-Pierce, who spoke with police at the 81st Precinct since Thursday, initially called 911 after finding Marchella unconscious and not breathing.
Officers found the girl on her mother's bed on Thursday morning. Sources say Marchella weighed only about 15 pounds and had serious health problems since birth, including undersized lungs.
As Brett-Pierce was walked to a police car on Friday, she was asked by reporters if the incident was a misunderstanding, and she said, "Yes." She also said she did not kill her daughter.
The medical examiner said a new autopsy on Marchella will not be finished until after the holiday weekend.
Investigators say Marchella had bruises and marks on her wrists and ankles, suggesting she may have been tied to the bed. A small bed had four lengths of rope tied to two corners. An oxygen tank was also found in the room.
Brett-Pierce was also charged with drug possession, after small amounts of marijuana were recovered in her apartment.
Marchella's biological father, Tyrone Pierce, who did not live full-time with his daughter and her mother, said Brett-Pierce did not harm her children. He also said Marchella was born premature, weighing only a pound, and needed assistance breathing.
"Of course I believe [Brett-Pierce] is innocent,” said Tyrone Pierce. “I don't think she hurt her kids or anything like that. I've been with her for awhile. I've never seen her physically harm her kids or anything like that, so for them to say that, that's ludicrous."
Marchella was hospitalized for most of her life, and had only lived with her family since February. The Administration for Children's Services brought in an outside company to work with the family, but a review of the case shows the family was visited far less than the required two or three times per week.
The Child Development Support Corporation said its contract to work with the Pierce family was canceled in June.
An ACS spokesperson told NY1 that the agency then took responsibility, and that ACS workers visited the Pierce family through the summer. ACS is continuing its investigation.
A shrine of candles and stuffed animals was placed in Marchella's honor in front of the Pierces' apartment building on Friday, and some neighbors told NY1 that Brett-Pierce was a good mother.
"I don't believe that girl killed that baby. I don't believe it," said a neighbor. "I'm saying that because I have a niece the same way."
"She never was a physical mother. She'd yell at them, she'd warn them, like, 'Don't do it,' but she won't reenact with them, like 'I'm about to hit you.' She's a nice mother."
City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in the wake of the Nixzmary Brown case, in which a young Brooklyn girl died at the hands of her parents, even though they were monitored to ACS, and in light of the agency's budget cuts this year, this latest case is very troubling.
"I don't think we've turned the corner yet where we've lost all the momentum that was created after Nixzmary and the change and the reform," said de Blasio. "We know we're going to have a tough city budget this year and next year after that. And I hope this is a wake-up call to say we can't lose children who we could have saved."
Investigators said the two other boys in the Pierce home, aged five years old and nine months old, appeared healthy and ACS officials said on Friday that they were helping them adjust to a new foster family.