MOMS WHO KILL THEIR OWN KIDS
Desperate to keep a man. Hooked on drugs and unable to function in the real world. Depressed and frustrated with life. These are just a few of the excuses offered by women who have murdered their own kids. Society holds a tremendous amount of hate for these women because many wonder how can you even harm a child, especially your own? What typed of defense can you come up with for punching or choking a 2 month old? I mean, really? The following article documents ten notorious cases of murder in Maryland by the hands of mommy.
TONYA RENEE LUCAS
One of the state's most infamous cases of a mother murdering her own kids is the horrible case of 29 year old Tonya Renee Lucas. Charged with setting the fire that killed six of her seven children, she was convicted of first degree murder after two well publicized trials. According to published reports, a witness testified in her second trial that on the morning of July 7 1992 at around 8am, an hour before she was scheduled to be evicted from her two bedroom row home at 2424 E. Eager Street, he stared in horror as she splashed gasoline all throughout the house. Later the house was up in flames. Tonya managed to escape by jumping out a second floor window but inside were all seven of her kids: 2 month old Damien Cook, 2 year old Gregory Cook, 2 year old Takia Cook, 3 year old Deon Cook, 5 year old Russell Williams, 12 year old Antoine Lucas, and 8 year old Billy Lucas - the only child to survive the blaze. Although all six kids were in cardiac arrest when medics got on the scene, they got heartbeats back on Deon, Antoine, and Russell but they later died from burns and smoke inhalation as well. An autopsy on Gregory Cook showed something even more disturbing. At 2 years old, the toddler weighed a mere ten pounds and with burns covering over sixty percent of his skeletal body he had healing fractures on his tenth and eleventh rib and the middle of his left leg. So emaciated, malnourished and dehydrated the doctor said he could have been dead before the fire because his brain was too small for his age. While paramedics worked on the kids, Tonya reportedly was in hysterics, crying uncontrollably as she lay on the floor of a house across the street from the fire.
"Are they dead? Are they dead?" she repeatedly asked investigators.
While cops built a case against her, the Red Cross came through for the kids assisting with clothes for their funerals and meals for the post funeral dinner. The Department of Social Services covered the $6000 cost of the funeral at William March Funeral Home. Even Arbutus Memorial Park donated the burial plots for the children. Crying as she walked past their closed caskets at the funeral, Tonya was arrested the next day and charged with six counts of first degree murder and the abuse on Gregory one week after their grisly deaths. On drugs and on welfare, Child Protective Services had conducted nine investigations on her between June 6 1981 and March 4 1991. Prosecutors theorized she set the fire to cover up the abuse on her son but because they were unable to introduce evidence of the abuse her first trial ended in a mistrial when jurors couldn't reach a verdict. Four months later prosecutors got the case transferred to another judge who would allow the evidence of the abuse as well as the testimony of an eyewitness who said Tonya set the fire to get clothes, furniture and new housing from the Red Cross. After jurors deliberated for eleven hours, they finally got a convictin and she was sentenced to six consecutive life terms. Her new hoome is a cell at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup where she continues to maintain her innocense.
Like most drug addicts in Baltimore city,40 year old Monalisa Mackey of Brunswick Street n southeast Baltimore had a long and extensive history with the Department of Social Services. Struggling with a ferocious addiction to heroin and crack cocaine, all five of her eight kids had been born addicted and were eventually taken from her by the agency. She lost her parental rights for all of them but gave birth to another daughter. Like her siblings, Alicia Cureton was born addicted to drugs surprising no one. She was placed in a program for drug exposed newborns where she detoxed for thirty days. After the drugs were out her system a judge gave custody of Alicia to her father and ordered him not to leave the child alone with her mother even though he knew they lived at the same house together.Her actions on February 28 2004 shouldn't have surprised no one. Not the Department of Social Services, not Child Protective Services and especially not the Judge who made such a stupid decision. Alicia's father stepped out around noon to run errands and while he was out, Monalisa tried to take a nap with the 18 month old but because she wouldn't stop crying Monalisa pushed the child's head down on the bed and laid on top of her, face down, for ten to fifteen minutes in an effort to keep her from crying. At first she told cops that Alicia had fallen down ten carpeted steps but doctors soon ruled that scenario out. Listing asphyxiation as the cause of death. MonaLisa eventually pleaded guilty to the secnd degree murder of her daughter and got a twenty five year sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women at Jessup.
This case is one of the most disturbing and horrific cases I've ever done research on. The tragic case of 5 year old Travon Harris still haunts me to this day. After being charged with his abuse as an infant 23 year old Sheila Avery of the 600 block of Monroe Street in West Baltimore temporarily lost custody of Travon and he was placed in a safe foster home where he spent the majority of his life. The boy thrived so much in the foster home that the foster parents petitioned the court to adopt him permantly but he was returned to the custody of his father, who still lived in the same house he shared with Sheila. On January 5 2003 a frantic Sheila called 911 telling dispatchers the craziest story I ever heard.
"My son must have drunk too much water and won't open his mouth!"
When paramedics got on the scene they found the child unresponsive, submerged in a bathtub full of scalding hot 120 degree water. He was rushed to the University of Maryland's Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit in critical condition with first and second degree burs to his feet, face, small of his back and trunk of his body. He remained in a coma on life support for six weeks until he died on February 15. Sheila told cops she punished the boy because he had a bowel movement on the floor, making him stand in a corner. Then she allowed him to take a bath where she said she left him alone for a while. When she came back she found him not breathing. Investigators didn't buy that for a second - they found a wet belt in the sink and theorized that the boy was dropped in the water after being beaten. She had admitted to using the belt on him in the past. Pleading guilty to child abuse resulting in death, Sheila got a twenty year prison sentence.
GINA MARIE CAMPONESCHI
Another case of a drug addict ill equipped, ill prepared, uneducated or just plain WTF? 35 year old Gina Marie Camponeschi of the 6900 block of Homeway Avenue in Dundalk was a drug addict. Plain and simple. Heavily addicted to heroin, crack cocaine and methadone, she used throughout her pregnancy resulting in her daughter Adrianna Richards being born addicted to the poisons as well. The newborn spent a month in the hospital detoxing then she was allowed to go home with her mother. Just twenty three days after being released to her care, on September 11 2005 2 month old Adriana was rushed to Bayview Hospital. Cold, pale, not moving, the infant was pronounced dead on arrival. Cause of death? Her mom admitted to coating the infant's tongue with methadone to keep the child from crying. She told investigators she figured she was only doing what she thought the neonatal nurses were doing to stop her daughter's fussing. Pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, Gina got an eight year sentence. I am literally at a loss for words over this case...smh.
RENE ELIZABETH AULTON
26 year old Rene Elizabeth Aulton was an emotionally disturbed mother of three who just didn't want kids anymore. Reportedly having an IQ of 83, Rene's mom was able to get custody of her first child - a son who was born premature and often sick - when he was just 2 years old. Leaving home at 20, Rene was never able to keep a job, never lived on her own, was stubborn and only listened to her many boyfriends her mother told investigators. Unemployed, unfocused, and drifting from one man to the next, Rene gave birth to two daughters within four years of leaving her mother's house. She didn't stay in one place for long and with the girls in her care, reports of neglect followed her from her neighbors in Arnold, Edgewater, Easton, and Baltimore city. They would complain to the Department of Social Services that the kids were often hungry looking, dirty and lived in deplorable conditions. At 4 Christine still wore diapers and 2 year old Natalie was just learning how to walk. Although their grandmother complained profusely to agencies about her daughter's care of the children, nothing was ever done because social workers said she just didn't have enough proof to prove neglect since she was always feeding and providing for the children. Although they weren't abused, the kids were always sickly, always unkempt, and always homeless. On the morning of November 15 1994 Rene lost it and disaster struck at the two bedroom rowhome in the 2300 block of Fleet Street in Canton. Living at the house for only two weeks, a fire erupted on the second floor. Rene managed to escape but inside were her two daughters. According to published reports, neighbors said Rene calmly sipped a soda and watched her house go up in flames while they screamed at her to do something. Unable to just stand there and not do anything, several neighbors broke down the front door in an effort to get the girls but were unable to get past the flames. When firefighters arrived, the girls were pronounced dead on the scene from burns and smoke inhalation. Rene admitted to setting the fire telling investigators she tossed a lit cigarette in an upstairs closet and couldn't get to them in time. At her trial prosecutors theorized that Rene planned to kill the kids in the hopes of saving a failing relationship with her boyfriend. After being arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder she still was oblivious as to what she had done.
"She called and she started talking to me like nothing happened. When I asked why the hell she did it, she started crying, saying 'I didn't mean to. I guess that means we're through, huh?' her boyfriend of about a year and a half told reporters.
I guess it does because after just five hours of deliberations a jury found her guilty of two counts of first degree murder and she got two consecutive life sentences at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.
DENISE MARIE LECHNER
25 year old Denise Marie Lechner from the 7800 block of Fabian Lane in the north point section of Dundalk never should have had kids from the beginning. emotionally scarred from years of sexual abuse she suffered from the hands of her own father, the high school drop out drifted from group homes to foster homes before marrying a man more than thirty years her senior in 2001. Shorty after, she gave birth to her first son Roy LechnerJr. At just 5 months old he was admitted to the hospital with bruises on his face and because he had stopped breathing. Denise admitted causing the abuse by squeezing the child's face and the courts ordered counseling, parenting classes and a thirty day jail sentence which she served ten days of. Her son spent about a year in foster care and was then returned home to his mother despite protests from social workers who recommended he stay in foster care. A year later, she gave birth to another son, Donald Wayne Lechner and reports of neglect on him soon followed. At just 6 months old the infant was found not breathing in the home and on November 19 2004 he died of undetermined reasons. Meanwhile, reports of abuse and neglect on Roy Jr. made by concerned neighbors and relatives went unanswered and apparently ignored.
"She used to kick him, throw him down the steps. She used to lock him in his room for nine to ten hours at a time, leaving him without food, water or a diaper change while her husband was at work. She used to take him outside and leash him to the house with a rope. Once I found him wandering the streets after 1am." neighbors told reporters.
Social workers made over 150 visits to the home so the events that unfolded on the 3 year old in March of 2005 shouldn't have surprised no one. Roy was making noise. She hit the child sending him flying down a flight of stairs. Next she put him on a sofa, gave him a pillow and a blanket then went back to surfing the net. Eventually he stopped crying and when she went to check on him later, he wasn't breathing. With injuries to his abdomen, arms, legs and head, his heart had finally given out and he was pronounced dead on arrival in the Bayview Medical Center's emergency room. Although his cause of death was listed as an untreated strep throat infection, asthma, a seizure, asphyxiation and a fall down the steps, Denise was arrested. She eventually pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and got a thirty year prison sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women. Buried five days before his 4th birthday, six volunteer firemen served as pallbearers for the preschooler of Battle Grove Elementary School.
Maybe death was welcomed for 2 year old Bryanna Harris because her short life was spent living in hell. With a history of suicide attempts and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, her mother 30 year old Vernice Harris had a short temper with kids and a lifetime addiction to heroin and crack cocaine. In 2002 she willingly gave her two young daughters away to the custody of the State because she knew she couldn't take care of them properly. When she became pregnant with Bryanna three years later, she tried to give her up too but was turned away the the Department of Social Services. True to her history, complaints of neglect along with an investigation by Child Protective Services soon followed her within days of Bryanna's birth. Charging documents reported that the child lived in horrid conditions. A crack house, basically. The row home on 25th Street was infested with drug addicts at all hours as well as an infestation of cockroaches that was so out of control, they were even in the refrigerator. Plus witnesses said Vernice often hit the child for no reason. If she asked for food she was hit. If she asked to be held she was hit. Yet, the child was not removed from the home. Then on the night before her death on June 5 2007, while everybody in the house got high, Vernice later told police she fed her daughter a dinner of Froot Loops and Kool-Aid at around 5pm. She checked on hr at about 7pm and she was fine. By 3am Bryanna's lips were blue, she was cold, rigid, lifeless. She wasn't breathing. 911 was called and paramedics rushed the child to John Hopkins Pediatric Trauma Unit but 2 year old Bryanna was pronounced dead on arrival. An autopsy on Bryanna listed her cause of death as methadone poisoning and a blow to her abdomen that was so severe it damaged her liver. Vernice was arrested and initially charged with first degree murder but prosecutors were unable to build a concrete case against her because they couldn't prove that she was the one who gave her the methadone. They eventually concluded that anyone in the house could've done it. So Vernice pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and instead of prison time, the Judge gave her a ten year suspended sentence, five years probation and most importantly, inpatient rehab at a treatment facility in Crownsville Maryland. After failing drug tests and testing positive for alcohol at the facility, just five months after being sentenced, a judge violated her probation and she was ordered to serve out the rest of her sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.
ELVA ESTINA REID
41 year old Elva Estina Reid of Turner's Station was stressed out and couldn't take it anymore so she decided to (A) beat her boyfriend to death and (B) burn the house down with her kids inside. Neighbors had complained about the smell, the flies, and the maggots that were coming from her home and on October 11 1999 the town home in the 100 block of Willow Court erupted in flames. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters found the bodies of three people. 62 year old George W. Koval Jr. was found in the furnace room dead from blunt force trauma. They searched the second floor and found 3 year old Venice Reid in a back bedroom under a pile of clothes on a bed, dead from smoke inhalation. Her 7 year old son was the only survivor. A sickly child, Vernice was brain damaged from viral meningitis she got as an infant and had already endured nine surgeries. The stress of caring for her was the basis of Elva's defense at her trial. Her attorneys complained that she had been struggling with cocaine abuse, alcoholism and chronic depression over raising the child and just couldn't do it anymore. Facing the death penalty, the former registered nurse at Maryland General Hospital got two consecutive life sentences without the possibility for parole at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.
The Department of Social Services first came involved with 22 year old Keisha Carr when her son James Carr, then just 2 months old, was brought to John Hopkins emergency room with a swollen broken arm. She pleaded guilty to abusing the infant and got a five year suspended sentence, three years of probation, parenting classes and counseling. And although she was ordered not to be alone with James, the baby was returned to her and her husband's care. Shorty after, she became pregnant again. She dropped out of her counseling sessions after five months and counselors called the Department of Social Services warning them that she was having problems. At a home visit, social workers found James underweight and malnourished and he was placed in the hospital. Unbelievably, he was allowed to remain in the home. Keisha gave birth to a second son and like his older brother, 2 month old David was rushed to the emergency room not breathing. Doctors examined the infant listing eighteen rib fractures, a crack in his skull, a broken leg and a hemorrhage of his spinal cord as the cause of his death. A ninth grade dropout with mental issues, Keisha admitted to abusing her sons whenever she got angry with her husband because the boys resembled their father. Pregnant with her third child, Keisha pleaded guilty to second degree murder and got a thirty year prison sentence.
Only God knows what was on the mind of 28 year old Lakesha Haynie of the 2300 block of Whittier Avenue in west Baltimore when she placed her 1 month old son Rajahnthan Haynie in a handbag then stuffed him in a shallow grave at Druid Hill Park in March of 2010. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 11, Lakesha had four children that she lost custody of and social workers had no idea she was pregnant with her fifth. She gave birth to Rajahnthan without hospital assistance or prenatal care because she was scared he would be taken too. A month later he was dead. After an argument with the baby's father, she told him she put her hand over the infant's mouth to keep him from crying and he stopped breathing. She led him to the makeshift grave, took the baby out the bag, held it for a few minutes then put it back in the bag. He gave her two weeks to turn herself in and when she didn't, he tearfully went to the cops himself. When they questioned her, at first she tried to put the blame on him by saying he might have rolled on top of the newborn because she found him dead in bed but investigators wasn't buying it. An autopsy listed the cause of death as a skull fracture and Lakesha eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Her sentence shocked the entire state of Maryland. Ten years suspended, five years probation, counseling, no unsupervised contact with kids under the age of 6 and she must report to the Department of Social Services if she gets pregnant again.