Crime

Juveniles as well as adults charged in death of 5-year old girl

MUNCIE (IN), USA (defend.ht) — Two underage cousins of a 5-year-old girl found dead in a Muncie home were formally accused Wednesday of brutally abusing her with a hammer, pliers, screwdriver and a leather belt, among other items.

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MUNCIE (IN), USA (defend.ht) — Two underage cousins of a 5-year-old girl found dead in a Muncie home were formally accused Wednesday of brutally abusing her with a hammer, pliers, screwdriver and a leather belt, among other items.

The defendants — a 14-year-old boy and his 11-year-old sister — were charged in Delaware County’s juvenile court system with aggravated battery.

The charges stem from the slaying of Marie Sadlyne B. Pierre, who died Saturday in a North Brady Street house where she had been staying in recent months with her cousin, Charlene Tabb, 29, and Tabb’s 53-year-old husband, Marcus.

The juveniles charged Wednesday with abusing the girl are Charlene Tabb’s younger siblings, and also lived at the home.

Charlene and Marcus Tabb were arrested Sunday on preliminary charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death.

Testimony at Wednesday’s proceedings in juvenile court indicated the defendants told police that some of their attacks on their young cousin had been launched at the request of Charlene Tabb.

Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold said after Wednesday’s hearing that he had not yet decided whether additional charges, such as murder, might be filed against any of the defendants — juveniles or adults — now in custody.

“We’re looking at all our options,” he said.

Those present at Wednesday’s hearing, in a courtroom at the westside Youth Opportunity Center, included the parents of the juvenile defendants, who shed tears, and the father of Marie Pierre, who remained composed.

Members of the extended family are from Miami, Fla., and Haiti, authorities said, and some speak little or no English.

Brian Pierce, master commissioner in the juvenile court, said he would arrange for a Creole-speaking interpreter to attend future hearings to assist in communicating with the parents.

Perhaps as a result of the language barrier, authorities said they still did not have a clear understanding of why Marie was staying with the Tabbs.

The juveniles appeared before Pierce in separate proceedings Wednesday afternoon, handcuffed and with their wrists secured to their torsos with chains.

Both told the court commissioner they spoke and read English. Attorney Ron McShurley was appointed as the 11-year-old girl’s public defender, while former judge Alan Wilson will fill the same role for her older brother.

“I know at 11, some of this is somewhat difficult to understand,” Pierce told the girl as he explained the proceedings to her.

The girl moved little during her time in a defendant’s chair in the center of the courtroom, her back to the gallery. Her brother, who wasn’t led into the courtroom until his sister had departed, occasionally cast glances at the few spectators behind him.

Prosecutor Arnold, at a table with Muncie Police Chief Steve Stewart, presented the testimony of a city police sergeant, Jimmy Gibson, to establish probable cause to hold the juveniles.

Gibson said police had taken statements from four juveniles — the two defendants, their 16-year-old sister and another 5-year-old girl who had been staying with the Tabbs — in gathering information about the abuse that dated back “at least into May.”

The juveniles indicated Marie was repeatedly punished for “bad behavior,” Gibson said, that included vomiting, urinating on the floor and “smarting off.”

Medical examiners found more than 80 “abuse marks” on Marie’s body, Gibson said.

Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn has ruled the girl’s death a homicide, authorities have not yet specified which of her injuries caused her death.

The juvenile defendants’ parents — who arrived at the YOC in the company of the victim’s father and another couple — sat at a table with the defense attorneys and court-appointed advocates for their children.

Pierce ruled both the girl and her brother would be held in the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center for the time being. Both McShurley and Wilson declined to offer testimony from their clients.

For an adult, aggravated battery is a Class B felony carrying a maximum 20-year prison term. If found guilty of the allegations in juvenile court, the young defendants could remain in custody until their 21st birthdays.

Formal charges against the Tabbs are expected to be filed this week.

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