A candlelit vigil was held Wednesday for a 3-year-old Queens girl who authorities said was abused and ultimately killed by her stepfather.
Dozens of people gathered for the pink- and white-themed vigil at the Beach 105 Street building where Bella Edwards lived. Bella’s mother, Shamika Gonzalez, was visibly upset as her brother, Roberto Gonzalez, consoled her.
Bella was reported unconscious in her Seaside home at about 6 p.m. Monday, according to police and District Attorney Richard Brown’s office. She had suffered trauma consistent with abuse, Brown said.
Her stepfather, identified as Marc Jenkins, 32, was the only adult home with Bella and her 3-month-old sibling for roughly eight hours on Monday, the district attorney’s office said. Gonzalez was out for the day and Jenkins “had exclusive control of the young girl throughout the whole day,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Wednesday.
“This is a terribly disturbing case. The victim here is an innocent little girl, whose body revealed traumatic abuse injuries,” Brown said in an emailed statement. “The defendant — who resided with the child’s mother — now faces the possibility of life imprisonment.”
Jenkins was charged on Tuesday with second-degree depraved murder and second-degree depraved assault, according to the district attorney’s office. He was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and held without bail, with a May 11 court date, Brown’s office said in a statement.
Gonzalez wrote that the little girl “was loved by everyone and shared so many funny memories” in a Facebook post Tuesday morning.
“Bella, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to protect you. This feels like a bad dream I can’t wake up from,” Gonzalez wrote.
The city’s Administration for Children’s Services has launched an investigation, said Eric Ferrero, the deputy commissioner for external affairs.
“Our top priority is protecting the safety and well-being of all children in New York City,” he said. “As soon as this family came to our attention. . .we immediately launched an investigation with the NYPD, and we secured the safety of the other child in this home.”
Boyce said investigators believe Bella suffered injuries while being driven by Jenkins on Monday. “We feel it happened sometime in that car,” he said.
“We were able to recover some video evidence of him leaving the location at about 2:30 in the afternoon, coming back at around 4:30 [p.m.],” Boyce said. “When we saw the child coming into the building at 4:30 [p.m.], she appeared to be in some kind of distress. . .The little girl was hit about the abdomen, we believe right now.”
Gonzalez returned to the home around 5 p.m. and was told Bella was sleeping, Brown said. After almost an hour she tried to wake her daughter and called 911 when she didn’t respond.
Emergency medical personnel arrived and performed CPR around 6 p.m., but were unable to revive the little girl. Bella was rushed to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway in “full cardiac arrest,” Brown said, and died soon after.
A preliminary autopsy report showed Bella died of blunt force trauma to her abdomen, Brown’s office said. “There was bruising throughout her body, the child’s small bowel was torn and her small intestine lacerated,” the district attorney said. Other medical studies are still pending.
Jenkins faces up to 25 years to life in prison if he’s convicted.
Jenkins has a prior attempted murder conviction from 2004 in which he shot a man in the Bronx after showing up to a fight the man was having with a woman, a police source said. He served five years in prison before being paroled in 2011, according to state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision records.
With Lauren Cook