A memorial to Marchella Brett-Pierce in front of her house on Madison Street, after the 4-year-old was found dead by police. — Photo by Jonathan Mena
A Brooklyn mother of three is charged with assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and drug possession after police discover the body of a severely malnourished 4-year-old girl in her Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment. According to the New York Times, investigators found evidence that the child, who weighed only 15 pounds, had rope marks on her ankles and wrists.
Carlotta Brett-Pierce called police on Thursday morning after she found her daughter unresponsive and not breathing. Police arrived at 823 Madison Street just west of Broadway to find Marchella Pierce dead on her mother’s bed with bruises on her torso, arms, and legs. Brett-Pierce said the child had fallen, but investigators determined that the marks on Marchella’s body were inconsistent with injuries sustained from a fall.
In a nearby room investigators found a small bed with four lengths of rope tied to the top and bottom rails. Brett-Pierce admitted to police that she used twine to tie up Marchella. The girl’s father, Tyrone Pierce, who is estranged from his wife, said this was the first time he had heard anything of his wife tying up his daughter. "It is hard for me to believe she could do anything to hurt her," said Pierce.
An investigator told the New York Post that Marchella "looked like she starved to death, her legs are like sticks. You can see her ribs." The initial autopsy was inconclusive, according to the Medical Examiner’s office. It was not clear if Marchella died from negligence or natural causes. The 4-year-old, who was born premature, weighed only 1 pound, 4 ounces at birth. She needed a tracheal breathing tube and has been hospitalized most of her life; she had only lived with her mother since February 2010.
Brett-Pierce — who calls herself a "proud parent" on her MySpace page and lists her occupation as model — was arrested the day after Marchella died. Police from the 81st Precinct executed a search warrant and found marijuana and crack cocaine in the apartment. Elizabeth Soto, a former neighbor of Brett-Pierce when she lived in the Marcy Houses public housing complex, said the mother was "crazy and deranged." Soto told the New York Post that Brett-Pierce was a drug user and she petitioned to have Brett-Pierce and her mother Loretta kicked out the Marcy Houses. "All they would do is go out and buy drugs. Crack. You could smell it" said Soto of the family. Brett-Pierce was also arrested in 2003 for assaulting a bus passenger.
Last November, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) opened a probe on Brett-Pierce after her youngest son tested positive for drugs at birth. In January, ACS hired a private contractor, Child Development Support Corporation (CDSC), to monitor the Brett-Pierce family. CDSC, a nonprofit organization based in Bed-Stuy, claim on their website to have "helped more than 20,000 families and individuals become self sufficient and self reliant." They are accused by the ACS of not visitng the family as frequently as required. Marcia Rowe-Riddick, the executive director of CDSC rejected the agency’s claims and told the New York Post, "we did the required number of visits and we did the required work." CDSC, contracted to monitor Brett-Pierce until June 30, 2010, recommended that ACS continue to monitor the family after Brett-Pierce tested positive for drugs in June. A spokesman for ACS told the Daily News that they had visited the family throughout the summer and will continue a full investigation into the case.
Brett-Pierce’s other two children have been placed in foster care. As she walked into the 81st precinct on Friday, Brett-Pierce yelled, "I did not kill my baby" to a crowd of onlookers. She is expected to be arraigned on Saturday.
The arrest of Carlotta Brett-Pierce comes a week after another Brooklyn couple were sentenced to 6 months in prison for the death of their infant son. Charged with criminally negligent homicide, Rafael Colon, 44, and his wife Denise Gonzalez, 30, of 220 Highland Boulevard, left 11-month-old Major Gonzalez at home under the care of their 8-year-old son as they went on a 3-hour shopping trip at a local Target in 2009. When they returned the child had a bruise on the top of his head and he was struggling to breathe. Major later died of his injures at Brookdale Hospital.
The couple, who had four other children in the apartment, initially blamed each other for Major’s death and were first charged with endangering the welfare of a child but were later indicted of the more severe charge of negligent homicide. According to the Brooklyn Eagle, Gonzalez reportedly has 10 children and has been investigated by child services in New York and New Jersey. The remaining four children in the apartment, ranging in age from two to eight yeas, have been placed in foster care. With time served, both parents are expected to spend another 90 days in prison before they are released.