A 12-year-old boy charged with second-degree murder in the death of a 2-year-old foster sibling was not the focus of detectives' investigation until he admitted to police to "play fighting" and striking the girl up to six times, a Prince George's County homicide detective said.
Police were interviewing family members about 2-year-old Aniyah Batchelor -- who died from blunt-force trauma July 3 at a Fort Washington hospital -- when the young boy made the admission, Detective Spencer Harris said Tuesday in court during a motions hearing in the case.
"He was one of more than three possible suspects," Detective Harris said.
The boy has not been named because he is being charged as a juvenile. Prosecutors have not sought a juvenile waiver hearing, which would be required in order for the boy to be charged as an adult.
The motion's hearing was held in Prince George's County Circuit Court on Tuesday to determine whether the boy's admission could be used as evidence in his trial. It was expected to continue Wednesday before Judge Sherrie L. Krauser.
Aniyah died July 3 after her foster father found her unresponsive at the family's home in the 1800 block of Taylor Avenue in Fort Washington, police have said. A 15-year-old sibling of the boy was overseeing the two children and a 4-year-old during the time police believe Aniyah was beaten. According to a police source with knowledge of the case, the 15-year-old found Aniyah crying -- apparently as a result of being hit in the chest and abdomen -- and put her to bed. Later, the 15-year-old went to check on the toddler, saw she was unresponsive and called the father.
Aniyah had been placed in the family's care because of a court-ordered ruling, county police said.
Homicide Detective Denise Shapiro was interviewing the boy about the incidents of the day when he admitted to striking the girl, even demonstrating a punch that made an audible smack, said prosecutor Wesley Adams.
After detectives told the boy's biological parents about the admission, the boy's biological mother came into the police department's interview room to talk to him. During the conversation, which was recorded, the mother told the boy that Aniyah was "beaten all over her body. She has bruises all over her body," Mr. Adams said. The boy then told his mother, "I didn't beat her like that," Mr. Adams said.
The boy's defense attorney, Raouf Abdullah, argued against the use of the boy's admission to police, questioning detectives about the timeline of their interview and when they believed they began interviewing the boy as a suspect rather than just a witness in the case. When a juvenile is taken into custody, Mr. Abdullah said police should notify the child's parents immediately.
The boy's grandmother dropped him off at police headquarters to be questioned and his mother was being interviewed herself when he made the admission, Detective Harris said.
The boy's family declined to comment Tuesday.
Because the boy is facing charges as a juvenile, he could only be ordered held in a juvenile detention facility until the age of 21 if he is found involved -- the juvenile court equivalent to guilty.
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