Toddler died after ‘extremely violent’ beating, prosecutor says
NORFOLK — A babysitter charged with murder in the death of an 18month-old boy was denied a bond Wednesday because of what the judge called “extremely compelling evidence” against her.
Ashadiya’ Xolani Brooks, 35, is charged with seconddegree murder, accused of beating the child while watching him on Oct. 23. The toddler was declared brain dead two days later.
Defense attorney Brett Lucas told Judge Robert Smith III his client called 911 when she noticed the boy wasn’t responding, has a minimal criminal history and turned herself in to police when they asked her to come to the station.
But prosecutor Jill Harris described the beating at Brooks’ home in the 1100 block of Porter Road, near Naval Station Norfolk, as brutal. A doctor who specializes in child abuse for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters discovered the boy had severe bleeding and swelling on his brain, as well as a broken skull, Harris told the judge.
“This was an extremely violent crime committed against an innocent, vulnerable 18-month-old child,” she said during the hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
Brooks’ account of what happened changed as she spoke with authorities over the next few days, Harris said. At first, she denied having anything to do with beating the boy. She said he was lethargic that morning when she started watching him. When he had a seizure, she took him to the bathroom to splash water on his face, then to the kitchen to try to get him to drink some water.
Brooks told police she called 911 and was put on hold — twice — before finally getting through on her third try around 11:45 a.m., Harris said, adding that she hasn’t confirmed that yet with city officials.
Later, Brooks told police she was having memory problems, the prosecutor said.
Finally, she told them something was coming back to her. Harris said Brooks recalled being angry about stubbing her toe, but said the boy got hurt when he fell back and hit his head while he was trying to take a toy basketball from Brooks’ own 18month-old son.
But the judge, echoing Harris’ account of the child abuse specialist, said the boy couldn’t have been that badly hurt by such a fall.
Brooks has been accused of child abuse before, Harris said, as she showed the judge an order from a Hampton judge removing her other son from her custody. Brooks’ mother contacted Norfolk prosecutors and detectives to make sure they knew of the past allegations against her daughter.
Lucas countered by saying the previous accusations came amid a custody battle over the child. He said the judge should let Brooks out of jail because she could live with her husband, who’s enlisted in the Navy, and relatives are now taking care of Brooks’ children: the 18-month-old boy as well as a 10-year-old.
But Harris called Brooks a flight risk, noting that — even though she’s lived in the region for 13 years — she fled to her native Connecticut with her son to escape a custody battle. Also, Brooks has been unemployed for four months and, other than her husband of two years, has no family in the area. Smith ordered that Brooks stay in jail without bond.