Prosecutors said that Marchella Brett-Pierce was bound to her mother's bed for months and repeatedly beaten and denied food and water. At her death Sept. 2, she weighed just 18 pounds.
In an extraordinary move Wednesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes charged the girl's caseworker, Damon Adams, and his supervisor, Chereece Bell, with criminally negligent homicide in her death. Both have pleaded not guilty. Hynes said it is thought to be the first time New York City caseworkers have been criminally charged in the death of a child.
The girl's grandmother, 56-year-old Loretta Brett, was charged with second-degree manslaughter and other charges Wednesday. She has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney, Julie Clark, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"Baby Marchella might be alive today, had these [Administration for Children's Services] 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 in a statement. "Children are our most precious gifts and we, as a society, must come together to fight and prevent child abuse wherever we see it."
Prosecutors say Adams, 36, never made the required visits to Marchella's Brooklyn home that could have saved the girl's life and illegally altered paperwork after her death to make it appear as though he had.
Adams also was charged with tampering and falsifying records. His attorney, Wayne Bodden, said there's not enough evidence to convict Adams. "We maintain our belief that there is not sufficient evidence to prove a cause between the allegations against my client and the child's unfortunate death," Bodden wrote in an email to AOL News today.
The girl's mother, Carlotta Brett-Pierce, 30, was charged with second-degree murder in November. She has also pleaded not guilty.
Hynes vowed to investigate whether there were systemic failures at ACS, but the child welfare agency said the indictments might deter qualified applicants from working at ACS.
If convicted, Bell could face up to four years in prison, Adams up to seven years, Brett up to 15 and Brett-Pierce 25 to life.
Marchella died of child abuse syndrome and acute drug poisoning, prosecutors said, and had suffered multiple blunt impact injuries, malnutrition and dehydration for months before her September death. They said the 4-year-old was repeatedly drugged with a generic form of Benadryl to force her to sleep.