A Philadelphia woman, 38, has been charged with murder in the death of a 4-year-old girl who’d been left in her care by the child’s biological mother.
Zya Singleton was pronounced dead on Nov. 3, four days after being brought to the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.
According to a release from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, police were called to the home she was staying in on the afternoon of Oct. 30, where Samilya Brown — the suspect — had claimed the girl had fallen out of a second floor bedroom window while playing with a cat.
But a medical examination of the girl allegedly found inconsistencies with Brown’s account.
After her death, the Office of the Medical Examiner found additional evidence of abuse, “including bite marks, open wounds to her face and scalp, cigarette and other larger burns to her left arm and thigh, puncture wounds, and signs of malnourishment,” the DA’s office said.
They also noted that some of Zya’s injuries had been treated with homemade stitches, which the DA’s office said “might have contributed to severe infection on the wound sites.”
Brown was arrested on Tuesday and charged with murder, endangering the welfare of a child, and other related charges. Her own biological children have since been removed from her care by the Department of Human Services.
“This is a horrific, heartbreaking case of abuse, neglect, and murder of an innocent, defenseless child,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement. “All children deserve care, protection, and love — no matter the circumstances of how they come into this world. “
“I urge all members of the public to learn how to spot signs of child abuse, and encourage you to report suspected cases of abuse to authorities,” Krasner added.
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The DA’s office said Brown was given custody of Zya by her biological mother, Jasmine Singleton, in order to keep the girl out of foster care, NBC10 Philadelphia reported.
Jasmine told NBC10 that Brown is married to her stepbrother, and is also her godsister. She had given custody of Zya two years ago, solidified with a notarized letter, while she got her life back on track.
Though the two women had a close relationship, Jasmine said she hadn’t seen Brown or Zya for the past year. She also claimed to be unaware of the alleged abuse.
“I blame myself to be honest,” she said. “I deal with this everyday but no one will understand the pain that I go through everyday knowing that I will never see my daughter again.”
Jasmine was able to see Zya before she died, NBC10 reported.
It was unclear if Brown has entered a plea or retained an attorney who could comment on her behalf.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to http://www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.