By Beth Hundsdorfer / McClatchy Newspapers Tuesday, March 3, 2009 http://www.bostonherald.com Midwest
BELLEVILLE, Ill. - A Belleville teacher’s aide is accused of trying to drown one newborn in a toilet after giving birth at a family party in Columbia, Ill., in November, and is being investigated in the death of another, whose decomposed body was discovered at her home last week.
Despite the protests of police, who argued that Elyse J. Mamino put her tiny daughter face-first in a water-filled toilet bowl and left her gasping for air and kicking her legs, child protection workers returned the child to her care until her arrest Friday.
"What more of a helpless victim can you have than a newborn infant?" Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards said during a press conference Monday. "This is a very disturbing case."
Mamino, 23, was charged Friday in Monroe County, Ill., with the attempted first-degree murder of her newborn daughter, Victoria Goodrich. She may face additional charges in St. Clair County, Ill., after Belleville police discovered the decomposing body of a newborn last week in the home she shares with her boyfriend and Victoria.
Mamino works as a teacher’s aide for the Belleville Area Special School Cooperative. She works at Franklin School in a program with about 50 autistic children. BAASC Superintendent Christy Magnusen could not be reached for comment Monday on Mamino’s job status because of a school holiday.
Mamino was being held Monday in the Monroe County Jail, with bail set at $250,000. If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in prison.
On Nov. 15, a Columbia police officer responded within five minutes to a 911 call and found the baby, Victoria, in the toilet. The officer assumed she was dead until seeing her move, Edwards said.
"The officer then tried to resuscitate the child. Emergency crews arrived, took the child to a hospital, where it began breathing again," Edwards said.
After the newborn was released from the hospital, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services returned her to Mamino. Edwards said he opposed the move strenuously. His detectives continued their criminal investigation, awaiting lab results and evidence processing.
Information uncovered by detectives led officers to Mamino’s Belleville home, where the remains of a decomposed infant were recovered Thursday, Belleville Police Capt. Don Sax said. That child was born in 2007, Sax said.
An autopsy was performed last week. Police did not release the sex of the baby.
"The investigative information will be forwarded to the St. Clair County state’s attorney for review upon completion," Sax said.
After Mamino’s arrest Friday, DCFS again took Victoria into custody, and she was placed with relatives, spokesman Kendall Marlowe said. Marlowe declined to respond to Edwards’ comments.
The Belleville News-Democrat requested access to the DCFS case file under a new law that allows news organizations to examine files in which criminal charges were brought in connection with the death or injury of a child.
The law resulted from the 2006 News-Democrat series "Lethal Lapses," which reported that 53 children died over seven years while in DCFS care because caseworkers failed to follow regulations, made serious errors or exhibited poor judgment.
One of the 53 children was Vanessa Ingram, who died in 2004 in a toilet in Venice, Ill. Her mother, Jaki Ingram, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was placed in the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services. She is not scheduled to be released until August 2024. Caseworkers had taken one of Ingram’s sons into protective custody in 1998, after finding evidence of abuse, but allowed another son, born the same year, to remain in her care. At the time of his sister’s death, the boy, by then age 5, was not potty-trained and was unable to speak.
Edwards said Monday he didn’t know what kind of services DCFS provided in Mamino’s case or whether caseworkers had visited her Belleville home, where the remains of the other newborn was found.
"I don’t know how they were supervising the case," he said. "We tried to stay in touch with the agency."