Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Baltimore police have arrested two women who, according to charging documents, directed at least a half-dozen children to participate in the near-fatal beating at a party of a 12-year-old Baltimore girl who accepted a kiss from another girl’s boyfriend.

Nicole Townes, 12, has been in a coma since Feb. 28, when she was beaten and suffered severe head injuries, police said, after she was kissed on the lips on a dare by a boy at the birthday party, which was held for a 13-year-old at about 7 p.m. in the 5000 block of North Loudoun Avenue.

Monique Baldwin, 35, the mother of the birthday girl and resident of the home where the party took place, and Erin Baldwin, 20, of the 2500 block of West Baltimore Street, are charged with attempted first-degree murder and first- and second-degree assault, among other offenses. According to charging documents, the two directed and participated in the beating. The relationship between the two women is not clear.

Three children also were charged. Their identities have been withheld because they are juveniles.

Court papers say that after the boy kissed Nicole, Monique Baldwin instructed the boy’s 14-year-old girlfriend and her 13-year-old daughter to “handle your business.” The girls began beating Nicole and her 11-year-old sister, Brenda Bailey.

According to the court papers, Monique Baldwin’s daughter “began to punch Nicole in the face, knocking her to the kitchen floor, where she then kicked and stomped on her head several times. Monique Baldwin then ordered the girls to take ‘them’ into the dining room because they were causing the refrigerator to be moved from the wall.”

The children’s guardian, Kenya Keene, 25, of the 400 block of Lyndhurst Street, attended the party but left earlier. Miss Keene was charged with second-degree assault, among other things, for an unrelated assault on Brenda earlier the same day.

Police said the three women were arrested Monday after hospital workers deemed that Nicole’s injuries were inconsistent with claims made by Monique Baldwin and Erin Baldwin that Nicole fell and hit her head against a wall. An anonymous caller told hospital officials that the girl had been beaten, police say.

Monique Baldwin and Erin Baldwin were ordered held without bail yesterday by a Baltimore District Court judge. Miss Keene was ordered held on $35,000 bail.

“It’s heinous,” said Baltimore police Detective Donny Moses. “In no way, shape or form did this 12-year-old girl deserve to be hit, let alone be beaten nearly to death, and the people who did this should be in jail.”

The court papers describe a brutal, half-hour-long attack during which Nicole did not fight back as children ranging in ages from 7 to 14 took turns punching and kicking her.

“Nicole attempted to crawl away from the fight toward the living room, when she was kicked in the stomach by [another child],” the court documents say. “Monique then stated to [the other child], ‘We don’t take body shots, we do the head.’ [The other child] then jumped on top of Nicole, began punching her in the face and grabbed her by the hair, smashing her head into the floor repeatedly.”

Monique Baldwin, listed in charging documents as 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 300 pounds, directed the children to continue the attack, even as they were inclined to leave Nicole alone, and at one point choked Nicole until the girl lost consciousness. Erin Baldwin, listed in charging documents as 5 feet 8 inches and weighing 200 pounds, repeatedly pulled an injured Nicole off a couch causing her to bang her head on the floor.

When Nicole fell to the floor, Monique Baldwin’s 7-year-old son jumped on her and began pummeling her, according to the charges.

“Don’t nobody stop him. He has to let his frustration out,” Monique Baldwin is quoted in court documents as saying. The woman also directed a reluctant 14-year-old male cousin to participate in the beating, saying, “She is disrespecting your family.”

When Nicole finally lost consciousness, Monique Baldwin slapped her, claiming she was “faking,” and attempted to pour water down the girl’s throat to wake her up.

Court papers said Nicole might have been unconscious and, at some point, not breathing for about 30 minutes before medics were called to render assistance.

The girl first was taken to St. Agnes Hospital and later transferred to the intensive-care unit at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, where she remained in a coma last night, Detective Moses said. Brenda was taken to a hospital after police determined the true events at the party. She was treated for bruises and contusions and is in the care of Child Protective Services.

Most residents of the neighborhood, which is about three miles west of downtown, said yesterday they were unfamiliar with the incident.

During the day, children still played and rode bikes, but police and several residents say when the sun goes down the streets becomes a haven for drug dealers. Liquor stores dot two corners, and the windows of several houses were boarded up.

One woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said her daughter was invited to the birthday party but that she would not let her attend because it was too late at night.

• Joe Weber contributed to this report.

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