NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City child care worker was indicted Thursday on a murder charge in the death of a 20-month-old boy in her care. Prosecutors said she admitted throwing him down and stepping on him.
District Attorney Robert Johnson said a grand jury charged Athena Skeeter, 40, with second-degree murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter in the death Friday of Cardell Williamson.
He said Skeeter admitted throwing Cardell to the floor and repeatedly stepping on his stomach. She also said she put him in a tub of water, then found him burned and unresponsive when the water turned out to be steaming, the district attorney said.
According to a court document, Skeeter told police she had been wrestling with the child at her home after his father dropped him off Friday morning. She said the child was on the bed when she lifted him by one arm and one leg and put him on the floor. She told police she stepped on his stomach but “didn’t use full force.”
“Cardell acted different after that,” Skeeter said, according to the court document. “He threw up. His head kept tilting.”
Police responding to a 911 call found Cardell lying on a bed, struggling to breathe. He was pronounced dead at a hospital and the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Skeeter’s lawyer, Michael Beatrice, said he could not comment on the indictment but added that Skeeter would plead not guilty.
The indictment was announced just hours after Beatrice said in court that Skeeter would not be testifying before the grand jury. Skeeter did not appear.
“We have no idea what other witnesses are saying,” he said.
The murder charge is an upgrade from the manslaughter charge on which Skeeter was arrested. It alleges murder by “depraved indifference,” rather than intentional killing.
Skeeter’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 20.
If convicted of murder, Skeeter could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Beatrice said there had been no discussions with prosecutors about a possible plea. “It’s much too soon,” he said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said Skeeter’s child care operation had both state and city oversight. He promised a full investigation.