A New York City man has been charged with murder after his three-year-old stepdaughter was found dead in a Queens apartment after being left alone with him.
According to Queen Districts Attorney, Mark Jenkins, 32, lived in the apartment alongside the mother of three-year-old Bella Edwards and her three-month-old sibling. He was their stepfather.
Bella was found unresponsive Monday by her mother Tamika Gonzalez, 25, and rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead, the New York Post reports. Law enforcement sources say the toddler’s body showed signs of abuse and trauma.
Her death is being investigated by the NYPD Special Victims Unit.
“She was definitely abused,” a law enforcement source told the Post. “The baby is a victim of sexual abuse.”
“This is a terribly disturbing case. The victim here is an innocent little girl, whose body revealed traumatic abuse injuries,” Queens DA Richard A. Brown said.
Jenkins has been charged with second-degree depraved murder and first-degree depraved assault. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years to life in prison.
The child’s mother posted a heartfelt message on Facebook the following day:
“Bella I’m so sorry I wasn’t their [sic] to protect you,” Gonzalez said. “This feels like a bad dream I cant wake up from. You was loved by everyone and shared so many Funny memories. I’m going to miss all the times you kissed and hugged me everyday.”