Witness: Woman admitted beating girl
Amira Brown's foster mother testifies in the murder trial of a friend charged in the child's death. The 12-year-old died in September 2005
Nov. 15--The foster mother of 12-year-old Amira Brown testified Tuesday in Berks County Court that murder defendant Rose M. Boyd-Tolver initially denied beating the child to death in September 2005.
Barbara Martin testified that Boyd-Tolver later told her she hit the child with a stick, a mop and a broom.
"I kept saying something is wrong with Amira and she was saying nothing was wrong, Amira is just manipulating you," Martin testified during the first day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial of 41-year-old Boyd-Tolver.
"So, I called 9-1-1," Martin said. "Then Rose started to perform CPR on Amira."
Martin said Boyd-Tolver later told her that she hit Brown because the child was misbehaving.
"First she told me it was a mop, then a broom," Martin said. "She told me so many different stories."
"Did Amira ever regain consciousness?" District Attorney Mark C. Baldwin asked.
"No," Martin said.
Baldwin said during his opening statement that Boyd-Tolver, a 5-foot-1-inch woman who weighed 280 pounds at the time, beat Brown on Sept. 4, 2005, with a mop handle before sitting on the girl, who was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds.
Baldwin said Boyd-Tolver admitted to police that she hit the child with a mop and later sat on her.
But Boyd-Tolver's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Craig S. Snyder, said during his opening statement that Boyd-Tolver lacked the mental capacity to kill Brown.
"Diminished capacity does not excuse the defendant of all punishment," Snyder said. "It drops the level to third-degree murder instead of first-degree murder."
First-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison. Third-degree murder carries a penalty of 20 to 40 years in prison.
Martin, 33, a certified nurse, said she was paid $2,000 a month to care for Brown as a foster parent for Pennsylvania Mentor, Wescosville, Lehigh County.
Martin said she also was caring for her own children, David, then 14; Alia, then 11; and Roy, then 4, in her home at 630 Summit Ave.
Martin said the children started teasing Brown while they were playing outside on Sept. 4, 2005.
"I sent the child upstairs," Martin said.
Martin said she left the child with her friend, Boyd-Tolver, about 1 p.m. to go to Delaware and Harrisburg to borrow money to help a friend.
Martin said she returned about 6:35 p.m. and Boyd-Tolver told her that Brown was being fresh to her.
"I was saying, 'Amira, get your shoes on,' and she did not respond," Martin testified. "I started banging on the door and found her laying on the floor. She started to look funny. She had purple on her lips."
Martin said she at first told police she was home because she feared those at the foster care agency would think she was irresponsible.
Criminal Investigator Barry L. Rambo testified that Boyd-Tolver initially told him that she had hugged the child and did not mention beating her.
Rambo said Boyd-Tolver later said she had hit the child once or twice with a mop in the kitchen.
Berks County Detective Donald Stewart showed the panel several PowerPoint presentations of statements Boyd-Tolver gave to police.
In a Sept. 5, 2005, statement, police said, Boyd-Tolver admitted hitting the child with a stick because the child cursed at her.
In a Sept. 8, 2005, statement, Boyd-Tolver admitted beating the child with the mop, police said.
"I didn't mean for it to happen or nothing like that," Boyd-Tolver said in the statement.
Prosecution witnesses are expected to continue testifying today in the jury trial before Judge James M. Bucci.