Woman Accused in Baby's Death
Mar. 24, 1998
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) _ For five years, every time Galiema Begg tried to get back to the United States, her visa requests were denied.
But last week, the South African woman was allowed into Canada. Only her fear of being caught by U.S. Customs agents was stopping her from driving across the border and continuing to Miami, where she hoped to introduce her 8-month-old son to his grandmother.
Her uncle and brother had driven to Canada to see her, and as they prepared to leave, she held onto her brother and cried. The men couldn't bear to leave her behind _ so they took her and the boy with them on their return.
Ms. Begg's family says it was just an act of compassion. But it proved fatal for the baby _ who died from being held too tightly while Ms. Begg cowered with him under blankets as the men drove their truck across the border on Thursday.
Now Ms. Begg, 30, is in U.S. custody, charged with criminally negligent homicide. Her brother, Achmat Begg, 31, and uncle, Mohamad Tahir Toffie, 57, face identical charges for concealing Ms. Begg and the child as they attempted to cross the Rainbow Bridge into Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The three were scheduled to appear in Niagara City Court for a hearing today. They pleaded innocent at an arraignment last week.
``How could they be responsible for (the baby's) death when they only wanted to bring him to me and his beloved family here in Miami?'' Ms. Begg's mother, Julie Begg, asked from her Miami home.
Galiema Begg and her parents, three sisters and two brothers, first arrived in Miami in 1986. Galiema attended Dade Community College and Florida International University in pursuit of a teaching degree. She taught deaf children in her spare time, her family said.
After school, she returned to South Africa to visit a sister who remained in Johannesburg, not knowing it would be nearly impossible to re-enter the United States. A State Department spokeswoman Monday could not say why her visas were denied.
Ms. Begg began slipping into depression after the first request for a travel visa was refused, her mother said. She quickly grew worse.
``She was losing mental stability very rapidly,'' said Julie Begg, 62. ``She was roaming the streets of Johannesburg like some incoherent bum.''
A man, a stranger, took advantage of Ms. Begg last year, the family said. She became pregnant.
Even after Ms. Begg's brother and uncle decided to let Ms. Begg cross back into the United States with them last Thursday, they weren't sure what to do.
The men later told police they planned to tell Customs the truth and ask for advice, but Ms. Begg panicked, so they instead covered her and little Mohamed Hadi-Begg with clothing and blankets.
Customs agents, alerted by the presence of a baby seat and baby clothes, but no baby, stopped the vehicle for a search. They found Ms. Begg and her unresponsive baby, who was pronounced dead soon after at a hospital.
Niagara County Coroner James Joyce later said the child had an odd rib fracture and blood in his lungs, left temple area and larynx.