BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Authorities in Birmingham, Ala., have charged an 8-year-old boy with murder in the beating death of a toddler that he was supposed to care for while the baby's mother partied at a nightclub until 2 a.m., police said.
The mother, Katerra Lewis, allegedly left her 17-month-old daughter, Kelci, at home while she and a friend went to the club on Oct. 11. The women are accused of leaving the friend's five young children to watch over the toddler.
While the women were at the club, investigators say, one of the friend's children, an 8-year-old boy, became agitated with the toddler's crying and assaulted her. After she was beaten, Kelci was placed back inside her crib -- where she remained until she was found dead there by her mother the following morning.
"This is one of the most heartbreaking investigations that I have seen in over 30 years of my law enforcement career,'' Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper said. "It's extremely troubling from so many different angles, and there are no law enforcement answers to prevent it.
"The bottom line is an innocent young baby lost her life and that should be a wake-up call for our community."
Investigators said the girl's 26-year-old mother did not check on her when she and the friend returned home around 2 a.m. Officials said if she had, the girl's death might have been averted.
Police said the boy charged in this case might be the youngest person to face a murder charge in Jefferson County, Ala. The girl's mother has been charged with manslaughter.
Authorities said Kelci died of blunt force trauma to the head and massive internal injuries. One of the other children in the home, a 6-year-old, told police the boy had viciously beaten the child.
All of the children have been placed in the custody of child protective services.
Lewis' attorney has said the mother should not be charged with manslaughter, and the woman's mother said she believes that an adult was inside the home at the time the toddler was assaulted.
"Katerra is not the type of parent that they are trying to portray her as,'' Waynetta Callens, Kelci's grandmother, told The Birmingham News. "We all will have our day in court. Never judge a book by its cover, which means don't try to judge from the outside.
"If you don't know the real story, keep your mouth closed because you don't know what happened," she added. "We know the truth, and we got nothing to hide."