A Facebook conversation between friends led police to reopen an investigation into the 2009 death of an 11-month-old girl and this year charge her mother with murder, a detective testified in court Thursday.
In the conversation, Julie M. Calahan admitted injuring her daughter, Lakeira, prior to the child's death on May 6, 2009, Virginia Beach homicide Detective Janine Hall testified during a hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Child Protective Services forwarded the conversation to police, who questioned the 23-year-old mother before charging her in January with second-degree murder.
Prosecutors entered a printout of the conversation into evidence, and Hall read the dialogue aloud in court:
In the messages, a Facebook user by the name of Juls Calahan tells a friend she shook Lakeira and stepped on her son, Levontae, now 6. She writes that Child Protective Services had taken away Levontae, and she'd instructed him to blame his injuries on her husband, who isn't the boy's father.
"He knows I'm the one who hurt 'Tae and 'Keira...," Juls Calahan wrote. "Sometimes I just want to die for what I did."
The social-media site was unfamiliar territory for Hall and defense attorney Janee Joslin.
"I have to be honest: I don't know anything about Facebook," Joslin said in court.
She asked whether someone could have posed as Calahan on Facebook or hacked her account to send the incriminating messages. Hall said she didn't know and hadn't used Facebook as evidence in a case before.
"I'm not a Facebook person," Hall said. "I'm not Facebook-savvy."
"You're just like me," Joslin said.
Calahan's brother-in-law, Stephen C. Calahan, 25, received a yearlong jail sentence in April 2010 after pleading guilty to child neglect for failing to obtain timely medical care for Lakeira. Prosecutors withdrew a murder charge against him after medical examiners could not pinpoint when his niece suffered the blow that ended her life.
In an interview with Hall in December, Calahan said her brother-in-law was asleep when she lost her temper and shook Lakeira, who had been crying, Hall testified. The baby died of blunt-force trauma two days later.
Judge Deborah V. Bryan sent Calahan's charge to a Circuit Court grand jury, which will decide whether her case should go to trial Aug. 1. She also faces two felony counts of child abuse against Lakeira and Levontae.
Calahan, who had moved to Brinkley, Ark., remains in custody without bond in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center.
Joslin said most cases include some evidence from social media, but not to this magnitude.
"If someone purporting to be her hadn't got on Facebook," she said, "she wouldn't be wearing an orange jumpsuit and charged with second-degree murder."