SKOWHEGAN, Maine — The 11-year-old girl accused of killing a 3-month-old baby in July will be evaluated for competency to stand trial, among other conditions, after her attorney John Martin pleaded “no answer” on her behalf Monday morning in Skowhegan District Court.
The girl from Fairfield, who the Bangor Daily News is not naming because she’s a juvenile, is charged with reckless or criminally negligent manslaughter in the death of Brooklyn Foss-Greenaway.
A “no answer” plea in juvenile court is “neither an admission nor denial. A ‘no answer’ comes into play when there are questions about skills associated with competence” by the defendant, said Brenda Kielty, spokeswoman for the attorney general on Monday.
Chief Maine District Court Judge Charles LaVerdiere also instructed the girl to not have contact with the baby’s mother, Nicole Greenaway, or her family; abide as directed by the juvenile case worker from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services; and cooperate with the competency evaluation.
Brooklyn was in the care of the girl’s mother in Fairfield on the night of July 8. According Greenaway of Clinton, her infant was subsequently left alone with the then-10-year-old girl.
Greenaway said in August that a toxicology report revealed that medicine for attention deficit disorder was found in Brooklyn’s system. She said it’s the same medication prescribed to the 11-year-old daughter of the baby sitter. There also were bruises on the baby’s face from when she was suffocated, allegedly by the 11-year-old.
“It looks like someone had beat her up,” said Greenaway in August. “Fingerprint bruises all over her face. A black eye. Bruises across the bridge of her nose.”
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case for the state, declined to give an official cause of death on Monday.
Greenaway, 36, who was in court with family and friends, declined to comment after the hearing but gave a few subdued comments during a telephone interview early Monday afternoon.
“I’m still trying to process it. I’m kind of overwhelmed,” said Greenaway of the hearing.
She said friends and family have been very helpful in helping her deal with her emotions surrounding her daughter’s death. However, she said it was difficult to see the defendant and her mother, who she said she also holds responsible for the loss of her infant.
“I just kept looking over [at them]. It was really hard,” Greenaway said.
The 11-year-old girl’s mother, who the BDN is also not naming in order to protect the identity of the child, is a former co-worker of Greenaway at Elmwood Primary Care in Waterville. Greenaway said on Monday that the girl’s mother no longer works in the same office.
In the courtroom, the girl sat with her head down for most of the 10-minute hearing without saying anything.
Defense attorney Martin of Skowhegan requested a competency hearing for the juvenile, which was granted.
A competency hearing is “to see if she … understands what lawyers do, what judges do, what court proceedings are for and so forth,” said Benson outside the court building. Because of the request, Benson said he wasn’t surprised by the no answer plea.
The girl was whisked away through a back door to the courthouse to the adjacent building, which is Martin’s office. A red umbrella was used to conceal the juvenile from cameras, which had been barred from the courtroom. A sketch artist was allowed.
Martin declined to speak to the media outside the courtroom and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Monday afternoon.
Benson said the girl has been in the custody of DHHS since she was charged with manslaughter.
Benson said the state forensic service will perform the competence evaluation, which is expected to be completed in time for the girl’s next court appearance. A status conference is scheduled for Feb. 28.
LaVerdiere asked the girl if she understood the conditions, to which she nodded in affirmation.
If convicted, the 11-year-old would be in state custody until she’s 21 years old.
“If she were to be adjudicated of having committed the offense and committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections, she would be released at the age of 21,” said Benson outside the courtroom.
He said that there is still the possibility of trying her as an adult.
“At this point, it’s far, far too premature to discuss whether or not she’d be an appropriate candidate for a bindover [to be treated as an adult],” said Benson, adding that it’s also too soon to discuss whether the case will go to trial or not.
Twice he was asked if any charges are likely against the girl’s mother for the baby’s death.
“I’m not going to discuss the extent to which the investigation is ongoing or whether other charges may be filed,” he said.
Greenaway previously said she feels the girl’s mother also needs to be held responsible for her daughter’s death.
“Her daughter did the physical act, however, I feel that [the mother] also needs to be equally charged,” Greenaway told the Bangor Daily News last month. “I feel she is the most responsible person, as far as the care of my daughter.”
Weeks before Brooklyn’s death, another baby overdosed on medication in the same home as the baby sitter.
Ashley Tenney, mother of the 8-month-old baby who survived, told the Bangor Daily News last month that doctors told her they had found amphetamines in her daughter’s system that matched medication prescribed to the 11-year-old for attention deficit disorder.
Brooklyn’s death was declared a homicide on Aug. 29, and the then-10-year-old juvenile was charged with manslaughter the following day. On Sept. 19, the Maine attorney general’s office filed a juvenile petition formally charging the girl with manslaughter.
Benson said the 11-year-old is the youngest charged with manslaughter “over the last 20 or 30 years.”
“It’s obviously an unusual situation and it’s an unpleasant situation for everyone involved,” said Benson.