Are Mothers, Caregivers Getting Away With Murder?
CINCINNATI -- The death of an infant, at the hands of a friend's boyfriend, has prompted one Tri-State grandmother to ask why isn't his girlfriend being tried for neglect.
She left the child with the man, who police say assaulted the child with such a violent force, she was left with severe brain damage and eventually taken off life support.
The boyfriend, 27-year-old Derrick Pitts, has been charged with murder, but he's the only one facing charges.
Some think others should be held accountable too, including the woman who left the child in his care.
Stacy Katz says she didn't know her 17-month-old granddaughter SaNyiah Rose Linn Katz was being watched by the boyfriend of her daughter's best friend.
"I'm absolutely furious that that even happened. He should have never been left with her at all, ever," Stacy Katz said from her granddaughter's graveside at Spring Grove Cemetery.
Stacy and her daughter, Marissa Katz, SaNyiah's mother, are haunted by SaNyiah's death.
Marrissa says she trusted her best friend to take care of her daughter.
"I was going through a really, really hard time, so I knew that I couldn't give SaNyiah everything that she needed at that time. I asked Rachel if she could take care of her while I got back on my feet again," Marrissa Katz explained.
Pitts was home alone with SaNyiah March 15 when he called 911 for help.
"I don't know if she was hitting her head in the bunk bed or what, but I just placed her on the floor. I was about to change her diaper. The next thing I know, she's gasping for air and she can't move or nothing," Pitts said.
Kristina Korobov of the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse and the National District Attorneys' Association has been pushing for more prosecutors across the country to consider filing charges against the accomplice.
Korobov says if there were a bank robbery, a getaway driver would also face charges, along with the suspect who committed the robbery.
"It would be the same way in child abuse. We have one person who's responsible for the ultimate injury that causes the child's death or results in some injury to the child and then the question is who else let that happen or made it easier for that offender to abuse the child," Korobov said during an interview in Washington, D.C.
In Indianapolis, prosecutors did file charges against 22-year-old Charity Bailey, who did nothing to prevent her 3-year-old daughter, Tajanay Bailey, from being beaten to death by her boyfriend.
A judge sentenced her to 35 years in prison.
In Hamilton County, authorities say they have filed child endangering and neglect charges against several mothers.
In one case, Latina Stallworth was sentenced to five years in prison for not protecting her son, seven-year-old Milton Baker III.
He was murdered by Stallworth's then boyfriend, Fred Johnson in August of 2006.
In other cases, women were given probation.
Megan Shanahan, with the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, says in the SaNyiah Katz case, there is no evidence to prove that Pitts' girlfriend saw any signs of abuse before the baby's death.
She says the prosecutor's office has always pursued prosecution, if the evidence is there.
"A lot of times in these case, these women literally have just gone back to work or they're at work. They had no idea. There was no evidence of old injuries where they should have known. Looking from the outside in, people can say there had to have been some indication. Well, that's easy to say from the outside in. Unless we have a clear indication that the mother should have known, then we can't responsibly prosecute her," Shanahan said.
However, Korobov suggests prosecutors may be able to do more when it comes to successfully prosecuting mothers.
SaNyiah's grandmother wants to see laws change to make more women and caregivers pay for not speaking up and protecting children.
"If there is any involvement whatsoever and she knew anything, whether it's Rachel or anybody else's kid and you're in that situation, and the other person needs to get punished just as well. She had the custody. She's just as much at fault. She might not have been the one who beat her, but she let it happen," Stacy Katz said.
The question is what will it take to protect children from abuse?
Among the options are mandatory penalties against mothers or caregivers who don't speak up and protect children.
aNyiah's grandmother has written state lawmakers asking for help in getting more women prosecuted in child abuse cases in hopes of sending the message that if you don't protect your child, then you are also breaking the law.
In the meantime, she's asking people to contribute to the SaNyiah Katz fund at any US bank to help pay for her granddaughter's tombstone at Spring Grove Cemetery.