exposing the dark side of adoption
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The Buffalo News

A Buffalo woman today was sentenced to 15 years in state prison for fatally beating her 22-month-old foster child last fall in her Buffalo home.

Arthurlein Holcomb, 36, of Lisbon Avenue, tearfully begged State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti for "a second chance," telling him she "did not mean to do this" to the girl, Jaymaya AulsHolcomb told the judge she was the mother of an 11-year-old girl and she and her husband had intended to adopt Jaymaya and another foster child they were given last year. She said, "I did not mean to do this" and said she treated both foster children "like they were my own."

Holcomb has been jailed since her arrest hours after the little girl's death last Oct. 26.

Prosecutor Joseph M. Mordino reminded the judge, "There's no second chance for this baby."

Mordino stressed that Holcomb was given a pretrial deal on a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter, adding that she "must pay the consequences." Rossetti responded by telling the defendant that had she gone to trial, she would have faced a murder conviction and 25 years to life in prison.

The judge called such a sentencing "the toughest part" of his job. He told Holcomb there was "no question in my mind that you're not a violent person and that you are remorseful, but your conduct and your actions" call for a stiff prison term.

"I'm only the judge on earth but there's another judge that we all have to answer to some day," Rossetti told the weeping defendant.

After the sentencing, Mordino said county foster care officials apparently had no doubts about Holcomb and her husband because of her seeming "exemplary record" of conduct as a birth mother.

But "that does not excuse her actions," he said.

Mordino said Jaymaya had been cared for from birth by her maternal great-grandmother, Josephine Fleming, until the county declared her a "neglected" but not physically abused child; she was placed in the foster care program last year. Fleming was in the courtroom for today's sentencing.

Court officials said Holcomb told Buffalo police she severely beat the little girl last October, angrily pressing down hard on the child's stomach causing severe internal organ damage. She admitted she needed "help for my anger" problems.

Jaymaya died of her severe internal injuries.

The other foster child, a 4-year-old girl, who also had been placed with Holcomb and her husband, Anthony, was taken from the couple's home by county Child Protection Services workers after the murder.

In November, Holcomb was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree manslaughter for what an Erie County grand jury described as "depraved indifference" to the life of her foster daughter. Her husband was not charged.

Jaymaya had been placed with the Holcombs last June. Court records indicate the defendant completed a 10-week training program for foster parents and her home had been checked for safety before the county Social Services Department made the placement.

Holcomb also had passed a state-required criminal background check, according to court records.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

2003 Mar 27