In the pre-dawn hours of June 26, a 13-year-old boy cradled his 2-year-old cousin in his arms and went running through a Tulsa neighborhood, screaming for help. The boy said he awoke to find the little girl unresponsive, but could find no adult in the home to help. Neighbors tried to save the little girl by performing CPR as they waited for an ambulance to arrive, but it was too late. The toddler was pronounced dead a short time later at a local hospital with traumatic injuries including a lacerated liver, a ruptured adrenal gland, a fractured rib, and contusions on her head, face, and back. She also had a bite mark on her left shoulder.
At the time of the incident, police arrested the girl's mother on a complaint of child neglect. Christina Simmons, 31, allegedly told police that her daughter had bumped her head, thrown up, and appeared drowsy, but that she did not connect the nausea and drowsiness with head trauma, and did not seek medical care for the toddler. Instead, she left the girl and her two brothers, aged 4 and 5, under the supervision of their 13-year-old cousin.
Simmons has been in the Tulsa County Jail since her arrest in June. She is held on $50,000 bond. At the time of her arrest, police said they did not expect additional charges in connection with the toddler's death, but new developments have led to the arrest of another suspect--the girl's cousin.
Investigators say that the bite mark on the toddler's shoulder matched dental records for the 13-year-old boy, and that "medical evidence, surveillance video, phone records and other evidence linked him to the case."
Dinero Reddick, 13, has been charged as a youthful offender with child abuse murder, an act of first degree murder. Under Oklahoma law, a minor charged with first degree murder is tried as an adult if he or she is aged 15, 16, or 17. Children aged 13 or 14 who are accused of first degree murder are certified as youthful offenders for prosecution; however, these younger teens may be certified as an adult.
Youthful offender status serves as a middle ground between juvenile delinquent adjudication and adult conviction. Whereas a minor adjudicated delinquent is often released around the time of his or her 18th birthday or before, youthful offenders are typically moved to an adult facility to complete their sentences once they reach the age of majority. However, youthful offender status often gives minors a chance for rehabilitation that would not be possible in an adult facility.
Learn more about the Oklahoma Youthful Offender Act here.
Image Credit: Emil Pakarklis