Mom, Son On Trial For Toddler Death

Monday, October 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — For two decades, police say the remains of Madeline Carmichael's 3-year-old daughter were stashed away in a locked bedroom closet.

The woman and her son allegedly beat the toddler unconscious, wrapped her body in plastic and newspapers, then stuffed it in a trunk, which was later moved to another apartment.

On Tuesday, Carmichael, 61, and her son, Gregory, 38, go on trial on second-degree murder charges for the 1979 slaying. If convicted, each faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

The pair pleaded innocent last November.

Investigators say Madeline Carmichael made a jail cell outburst the morning after police discovered Latanisha's mummified body.

``She called herself an animal, slime, the devil,'' Detective Daniel D'Alessandro testified at a recent court hearing. ``She wished death on herself. She was saying she didn't deserve to live.''

The mother's alleged ramblings after her arrest will be admissible at trial, a judge ruled last week.

The toddler's death went undetected until last November when police say another daughter turned the mother in at the urging of Latanisha's twin brother, Andre, who sought to renew a relationship with his mother.

The daughter, Sabrina Carmichael, 30, is expected to take the stand this week and say she witnessed the attack — a childhood memory so horrid she suppressed it until a year ago.

Defense attorneys have chosen a non-jury trial, partly because of negative publicity that included news reports the mother has a history of abusing her children.

The press and prosecutors have unfairly made Carmichael ``out to be a cold-hearted abuser, a devil incarnate,'' said her attorney, Joshua Horowitz.

Horowitz said the medical examiner's report, though ruling Latanisha's death a homicide, is inconclusive on how it happened. He suggests the death could have been an accident and argues the mother's statements to police were ``nonsensical ramblings,'' not a confession.

D'Alessandro said that based on the tip from Sabrina, police searched for public records on Latanisha. They found a birth certificate but no record of her death.

Investigators went to the mother's apartment on Nov. 5, 1999, looking for Latanisha. The mother allegedly told police she had not seen Latanisha in years.

Investigators eventually found Latanisha's decomposed body entombed in a closet.