St. Charles Parish, Louisiana (NOLA.com) — A 6-month-old boy is dead, and his 12-year-old sister has been arrested on a charge of first-degree murder after the infant’s death was declared a homicide, the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
“This is a horrific and tragic situation,” Sheriff Greg Champagne said in a statement released Thursday.
The Sheriff’s Office declined to name the victim, citing concerns about identifying the juvenile suspect in the case and the family. But the children’s aunt, Nicole Brown, spoke with WWL-TV Thursday about the nephew she used to babysit and her niece, now accused in his death.
“He was perfect. He was a beautiful baby, and she loved her brother. She loved her brother,” Brown said.
Paramedics were called to the children’s home in Luling Sunday after receiving a report of a medical emergency. They arrived and found the boy not breathing, said Cpl. James Grimaldi, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman. The boy could not be revived.
An autopsy determined the baby’s death was a homicide. Neither the Sheriff’s Office nor the St. Charles Parish Coroner’s Office would release the cause of death. But sources told WWL-TV that the child had been hit.
Detectives obtained a first-degree murder warrant, defined by state law as the killing of a victim under the age of 12, and arrested the baby’s sister Monday.
The Sheriff’s Office waited three days to release information to the public about the homicide and subsequent arrest, Grimaldi said, because the investigation was still underway.
They also wanted to make sure necessary notifications had been made to relatives, the court system and the St. Charles Parish District Attorney’s Office because the victim and suspect are so young, he said.
Brown cautioned against the public judging the children’s family, including their mother.
“This is a mother who’s lost two children, not just one. That’s both of her children,” Brown said. “People are very, very judgmental. But sometimes, you’ve got to look within. It could be you tomorrow.”
Gregory Carter, a criminal defense attorney in the New Orleans area, questioned the first-degree murder count. Carter, who has no connection to the case, noted that 12-year-olds can’t drive vehicles, purchase alcohol or get into some movies by themselves.
“To believe they’re culpable and capable of making the kind of decision that would warrant a first-degree murder charge seems like overkill,” he said.
Carter admitted he doesn’t know the specifics of the case, but said he finds it difficult to fathom that a 12-year-old could possess the character to warrant such a charge. And if, indeed, capable, that perhaps signals that there could be some level of mental disease, he said.
The girl was being held Thursday at an unnamed juvenile detention center. If convicted, she faces a “juvenile life” sentence, confinement at a secure facility until she turns 21, according to Louisiana law.