The Brooklyn woman accused of leaving her 2-year-old daughter alone in their Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment that then caught fire, killing the tot, was arraigned on two misdemeanor charges Wednesday night.
Leila Aquino, 20, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and reckless endangerment. She was held on $10,000 bail during her arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal Court.
Prosecutors said Aquino was not home when her top-floor apartment in the three-story home on Monroe Street went up in flames about 6:50 a.m. It was brought under control just before 7:30 a.m. The second floor of the building was unoccupied, and the little girl’s 89-year-old great-grandfather lived on the first floor.
When Aquino returned about two hours later, she allegedly called her mother, who then called 911 to let police know little Kaleenah Muldrow was still in the house. But it was too late: Firefighters found Muldrow under the bed, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation Wednesday.
“Yes, this is a tragedy, but [the] defendant left the child home alone and decided instead to go out and do whatever she was doing without arranging proper care for the child,” said Assistant District Attorney Tziyonah Langsam.
Aquino initially told investigators she had left her young daughter with a baby sitter, Langsam said. She then allegedly said she left Kaleenah at about midnight before the baby sitter arrived, and they had arranged through Facebook messages for her to be watched.
But Langsam said there are no messages that show this; Aquino said she deleted them.
The baby sitter told police she hadn’t watched Kaleenah for some time after getting into a fight with her mom over unpaid wages, a law-enforcement official said. She allegedly told cops she was out having drinks with a man when the blaze caught, the official said.
Her attorney, Jacqueline Caruana, said Aquino was “extremely disturbed” by what happened. She said she works as a home health aide, just as her mother does. She is also attending Empire Beauty School.
“A child has died. My client is grieving for the loss of this child — her entire family is grieving for the loss of this child,” Caruana said. “My client should be able to be present for the funeral for this child for her to even begin — if it’s even possible — to start to heal from what has happened.
“This has been extremely traumatic for both her, for her family and everybody involved,” she added.
Aquino has one prior conviction for disorderly conduct in 2015 for “an assault and robbery matter,” Langsam said. Caruana said Aquino served two days of community service for that incident.
Aquino’s mother and two cousins were in court but declined to comment.
Aquino’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 29.