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New York child welfare workers charged in historic case

From Jesse Solomon, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two former child services workers are charged in the death of a 4-year-old girl
  • The indictment is the first naming child services employees in New York City's history
  • The child's grandmother also is charged with second degree manslaughter
  • Marchella Pierce weighed just 15 pounds when she was found in her family's apartment

New York (CNN) -- Two former child services case workers have been charged in the death of a 4-year-old girl they were supposed to be monitoring. It is the first indictment of child services employees in New York City's history.

Damon Adams and his former supervisor, Chereece Bell, who at the time of the child's death in September were with the city's Administration for Child Services, were charged Wednesday with criminally negligent homicide, official misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child in the death of Marchella Brett-Pierce, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said in a news release.

The child's grandmother, Loretta Brett, also was charged. She faces counts of second degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, unlawful imprisonment, and endangering the welfare of a child, the release said.

The mother of the toddler, Carlotta Brett-Pierce, was indicted in November.

"Baby Marchella might be alive today, had these ACS workers attended to her case with the basic levels of care it deserved, or had her grandmother stepped in and put a stop to the shocking abuse she is charged with facilitating," Hynes said.

"Children are our most precious gifts and we, as a society, must come together to fight and prevent child abuse wherever we see it."

Adams also faces charges of tampering with public records and falsifying business records, according to the district attorney.

Bell's attorney, Joshua Horowitz, issued a statement saying she "is being unfairly scapegoated by management and by the government."

"They fired the wrong person; they fired a dedicated woman who has given her life and education to helping children and she just happened to be the supervisor of someone that didn't do their job," he said.

The attorney suggested that "maybe the person that cut the supervisors or the budget should be held responsible."

Bell is in jail and the district attorney has asked for bail of $25,000, Horowitz said.

Attorneys for Adams and Brett were not immediately available for comment.

Marchella Pierce weighed just 15 pounds and had marks on her hands and ankles when police found her unconscious in her family's Brooklyn apartment, police said.

Prosecutors say that between July 12 and September 2, Brett-Pierce bound her daughter to her bed, refused her food and water, and force-fed her over-the-counter medication, including Claritin and diphenhydramine, a generic form of Benadryl.

The child allegedly died of acute drug poisoning, blunt impact injuries, malnutrition and dehydration, officials say.

Prosecutors say that Adams postdated a computer record to make it appear as though he visited the child's home when he had not. The entry was made after she died, according to the indictment.

As Adams' supervisor, Bell is accused of neglecting to oversee and monitor Adams' work.

If convicted, Bell could face up to four years in prison; Adams, up to seven years; and Brett, up to 15 years, the district attorney's office said. Brett-Pierce could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison if found guilty.