Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mother to plead guilty in starving death of Philadelphia girl with CP

From The Philadelphia Inquirer. Here's the story from last summer.

The mother of a 14-year-old girl who starved to death while under city supervision will "accept responsibility" for the crime and plead guilty to third-degree murder charges, her attorney said April 28.

Andrea Kelly, 39, will agree to serve 20 to 40 years in prison for the 2006 death of her daughter, Danieal, (pictured) said lawyer Richard Quinton Hark.

The girl, who suffered from cerebral palsy, weighed just 46 pounds when she died in a sweltering apartment. Her legs looked liked bare bone and her back was full of gaping bedsores infested with maggots.

Danieal's death and other failures by Philadelphia's Department of Human Services resulted in nine indictments, the firing of the agency's two top officials and a number of reforms at the agency.

Hark said Kelly was acknowledging her failures as a parent.

"It's a very difficult time when you have to accept responsibility for starving your daughter to death," Hark said.

The girl's slow death happened while the family, which included 10 children, was under the supervision of DHS. Prosecutors say the DHS caseworkers failed to do their jobs, which was to protect the child from neglect.

The agency had hired a private social services agency, Multi-Ethnic Behavioral Health, to visit the home and make sure the Kelly children were being cared for.

Charges of involuntary manslaughter are still pending against a caseworker from Multi-Ethnic, Julius Juma Murray, 51. He failed to make the required home visits and the agency falsified records to cover it up, according to the indictment issued last summer.

Murray's lawyer, William Spade, said his client did his job and Andrea Kelly is right to accept the primary responsibility for Danieal's death.

"He did what he was supposed to do," Spade said of Murray. "He made the visits he was supposed to make. He tried to get the girl services, and he wasn't successful because of the inaction of the parents."

Officials from DHS and the Philadelphia District Attorney's office did not respond to requests for comment yesterday evening.

Danieal Kelly's father, Daniel Kelly, has been charged with endangering the welfare of children. Also charged in the case were Multi-Ethnic's founder and two former DHS case workers.

Hark said Andrea Kelly's plea agreement does not address whether she will cooperate in any of the other cases.

If she had gone to trial, Hark said, Kelly might have been convicted of first-degree murder and sent to prison for life. He said any jury would have been moved by the details of the girl's death, and the pictures of Danieal's body.

"If you have complex issues of an extremely malnourished mentally and medically disabled child in a mother's care, it will really affect the jury," he said.

The plea hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. before Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner. Along with the murder plea, Kelly is also pleading guilty to child endangerment.

"It's the appropriate thing to do to bring closure to a very unfortunate circumstance in her life, and her family's life," Hark said.