Baby dies after being thrown from New York window

Third death of child in similar circumstances in city since August

Police officers stand guard near an apartment building in the Bronx borough of New York where a six-month-old girl died on Thursday after being thrown from a window. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

Police officers stand guard near an apartment building in the Bronx borough of New York where a six-month-old girl died on Thursday after being thrown from a window. Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

 

The screaming from Apartment 6D began on Wednesday night.

By midday on Thursday, one neighbour said, Tenisha N Fearon was yelling, “I’m going to throw the baby.”

“She was saying, ‘Hallelujah, praise God, we’re all going to die,’” said the neighbour, Lizette Rodriguez (48), who lived three floors below Fearon in the Bronx. “She was arguing with herself.”

By 2pm, residents who had heard the screams clambered up a fire escape at 2200 Tiebout Ave. to a nearby rooftop to urge Fearon to stop. The view inside her sixth-floor apartment, said Gregorio Lopez (47), who lived next door to her and had joined his neighbours on the roof, was disturbing: Fearon (27), naked and trying to break a window as three of her four children lay in a line on the floor, all of them also naked.

Moments earlier, witnesses told the authorities, Fearon had dangled her youngest child, six-month-old Junilah Lawrence, from the window, then thrown her. The girl landed on the pavement below and was pronounced dead a short time later at St Barnabas Hospital.

The police, responding to a flurry of 911 calls, had to break down the door to Fearon’s apartment to get in. Fearon was taken into police custody and sent to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

The police said that her three other children - a 10-year-old boy, and two girls, aged 8 and 4 - had been safely removed and were placed with New York City’s child welfare agency. No charges had been placed as of Thursday night, and the police were still trying to piece together precisely what had happened.

The death of Junilah, who was born on April 10th, was the third time in recent months that babies in the city had been fatally thrown from a window of their own home.

In the two other recent episodes in which a baby was thrown from a window in the city, the mothers faced criminal charges.

Last month, Jennifer Berry (33), was accused of throwing her newborn girl from the seventh-floor window of an apartment building in the Bronx. In August, the mother of a three-week-old boy who died after plummeting from a fourth-floor window in Queens was charged with intentionally killing her child.

Stephen Davis, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said Fearon’s boyfriend, the father of Junilah and the four-year-old, had been living with the family but was not there during the incident on Thursday.

Davis said officers had visited Fearon’s home two other times, in 2001 and 2002, for cases in which she had been a victim of domestic disputes. He said the motive for the episode on Thursday was still being investigated.

“It looks like that she, initially, she might have done this,” he said. “But why? I don’t know.”

Her sister Alicia Fearon (33) said by phone on Thursday afternoon as she arrived at the beige brick building in Fordham Heights where Fearon lived: “Tenisha loved her children dearly, and she cared for her children 100 per cent. This is a shocker for us.”

Asked why something like this could happen, she said: “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

Another sister, Tamica Fearon (32), also reached by phone, said: “Something must have gone wrong. Something must have gone very wrong.”

Carol Watson, who lives in the building and said she had known Fearon for years, said that what happened did not make any sense. “She was a good mother and very protective of those children. The children were always clean and well looked after,” she added. “But you never know what is going on in someone’s head. People are under all kinds of stress these days.”

Another neighbour, Grace Zarate, who lives on the same floor as Fearon and has been in the building since 1980, said she could not recall visits by the police or other city officials to Fearon’s apartment. “I shared my daughter’s clothes with her,” Zarate said. “And made sure her children had toys at Christmas.”

Citing privacy rules, a spokesman for the child welfare agency, the Administration for Children’s Services, declined to say whether Fearon had any dealings with it. “We are currently investigating the circumstances that led to this tragic incident and are actively working to ensure the well-being of the three remaining children in this household,” the agency’s spokesman Christopher McKniff said.

The New York Times