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Youngsters Blamed In 2-Year-Old’s Death

March 14, 1987

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ A 2-year-old girl who had been taken from her mother because of alleged neglect died of injuries inflicted by three young boys after a guardian left her alone with them, authorities say.

″It’s a motiveless thing,″ Detective Capt. Thomas Thelen said Friday night. ″It’s a bunch of kids who suddenly turn vicious.″

The three boys, ages 7, 8 and 10, were placed in the custody of the Milwaukee County Social Services Department after the death. Authorities said they would decide later whether to charge the 8-year-old with the juvenile equivalent of second-degree murder and the other boys with child abuse.

The girl was pronounced dead early Thursday in St. Michael Hospital.

″They jumped on her and punched her and hit her with a bed slat,″ Capt. Albert Hentz said.

According to interviews with the children, the 8-year-old may have jumped from a low table onto the girl, knocking her down, Hentz said. The girl hit her head against a television stand at some point during the assault and was struck with slats from a bunk bed, he added.

Her eyes were swollen, she had severe bruises on the face, chest, abdomen, back and legs, and her body had teeth marks on it, according to the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s report.

An autopsy showed the girl died of a lacerated liver and pancreas caused by beatings to the abdomen, and the death was ruled a homicide.

The girl had been removed from her mother’s home Feb. 17 and placed with the guardian, her great aunt, authorities said. The girl’s 1-year-old sister had been living with the guardian since Dec. 23.

″We were monitoring the situation on a neglect allegation that goes back two years″ and was substantiated in November, said Jefferson Aiken, spokesman for the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services.

He said the mother had been receiving counseling and visited her children often.

″It was our hope this would improve the bonding with her kids,″ Aiken said. ″It also gave us a better opportunity to monitor her (the mother’s) progress. She had appeared to be making progress.″

The medical examiner’s report said the 26-year-old guardian left the girl with four other children in the care of the 10-year-old boy at about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The guardian returned home about midnight after playing softball and visiting a tavern, according to the report. She found the child unconscious and called paramedics, it said.

The 10-year-old and the 8-year-old are sons of a neighbor, and the 7-year- old boy is the guardian’s son. Also at the home were the victim’s sister and a 3-year-old daughter of the neighbor. The two girls were taken to foster homes.

Assistant District Attorney Robert E. Kraemer said if it is proved that the boys’ actions caused the death, they could be taken from their homes for up to one year at a time. Because of their ages, they would not be placed in any kind of detention or juvenile correction facility, he said.

Assistant District Attorney John DiMotto says he will meet with the great aunt on Tuesday and will consider whether to pursue child abuse or child neglect charges against her.

Aiken said the guardian’s home was considered a suitable one at the time the children were placed there.

A detention hearing for the three boys was delayed Friday when lawyers for the children and the victim’s mother objected to the presence of reporters.

Circuit Judge Christopher R. Foley ruled that reporters could attend the hearing. However, the lawyer for the children filed a writ of prohibition requiring that the ruling be reviewed by another judge next week.

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