By RACHEL QUIGLEY
PUBLISHED: 08:42 EST, 8 May 2012 | UPDATED: 08:42 EST, 8 May 2012
Tortured: Marchella Brett Pierce was just 18lb when she was allegedly beaten and drugged to death
A mother on trial for the murder of her daughter, four, who was just 19 pounds when she died, testified yesterday she never harmed the child and didn’t think she ‘looked bad’ when she died in September 2010.
Carlotta Brett-Pierce, from Brooklyn, took the stand yesterday and acknowledged that though her daughter had lost weight before she died, she looked like ‘a child who wasn’t sitting on her booty in the hospital all day’.
When Marchella Brett-Pierce was found, she was tied to her SpongeBob SquarePants bed, had been beaten, starved and drugged.
Prosecutors say she had dozens of marks and open wounds on her tiny body which was so emaciated, every rib could be seen.
Brett-Pierce said yesterday: ‘To me, at the time, it didn’t look bad.’
Marchella sent the first three-and-a-half years of her life in hospital after she was born prematurely with severe breathing difficulties.
Her mother admitted on the stand that in the seven months she was in her care, she never took the four-year-old to a pediatrician.
A prosecutor showed the mother a doctor’s note indicating that her youngest boy weighed 18 pounds at nine months — roughly the same weight as four-year-old Marchella when she died, according to the New York Daily News.
She told the court she fed her daughter ‘potato chips, fried chicken and cheese doodles’, but an autopsy recorded that only a single corn kernel was found in her body, along with a high level of antihistamines.
Marchella should have been on a specialized diet and fed through a tube, which prosecutors say the mother totally ignored, instead feeding her junk food.
During questioning she denied certain things she had already told police and called Marchella ‘my baby’ as opposed to ‘that b***h’ – which she was heard calling her in a recorded jail conversation played for the jury saying: ‘That b***h wasn’t that f***ing light.’
‘Monster mom’: Carlotta Brett-Pierce testified yesterday she didn’t think her daughter Marchella looked bad when she died at only 19lbs
Grandmother: Loretta Pierce is being tried for manslaughter, accused of not doing anything to help the child and failing to help her death
Marchella’s grandmother, who is charged with manslaughter, is being tried alongside Brett-Pierce.
Two social workers from the city’s Administration for Children’s Services who had involvement in Marchella’s case were charged separately with criminally negligent homicide for failing to prevent the tragic death.
Brett-Pierce’s six-year-old son testified at the trial last month and said he never saw his mother beat, bind or drug his little sister.
Appearing on a monitor from another room in the Brooklyn courthouse, Tymel Pierce said he never saw four-year-old Marchella Brett-Pierce tied to her tiny SpongeBob SquarePants bed by a skipping rope or be hit with a belt.
Dressed smartly with a tie on, the little boy only answered ‘no’ when prosecutor Perry Cerrato asked if he had seen his mother tie Marchella to the bed.
Referring to Carlotta as ‘my old mommy’ he said that he witnessed none of the horrific acts she is accused of committing on her own child.
The testimony of Tymel ran directly contrary to what prosecutors expected him to
They billed the evidence from the little boy as information ‘that no one else can offer’, mainly an eyewitness first-hand account of seeing Marchella force-fed sleeping pills.
‘What about if Chella got in trouble, would anything happen with that belt?’ asked Cerrato of Tymel, holding a photo of her skull shaped buckle.
‘No,’ replied Tymel who said he only saw the belt on his mother’s waist.
The little boy told the court that he could go to the fridge whenever he wanted but didn’t see his sister go there.
However, when asked if his sister ate whenever she wanted, Tymel had a different answer.
‘Did anyone ever feed Chellla?’ said Cerrato.
‘Nope,’ replied Tymel.
‘Did she ever eat?’ asked Cerrato.
‘Nope,’ said Tymel.
The shy boy mostly replied ‘I don’t know’ or ‘no’ to the majority of the questions he was asked.
Grisly discovery: After the death, Marchella’s bed is removed from the Brooklyn home. She was found tied to it with a jump rope and string and had raw wounds from the restraints
The jury was shown photos of the girl, who weighed just 18.8lbs on her death – nearly half the weight of an average four-year-old – in which every rib could be seen, the New York Daily News reported.
Images projected on a screen in the court room also showed open wounds on her limbs from where she had been restrained, as well as bruises seemingly caused by a blunt force.
Restraining items, including brown twine, string and jumping ropes, were found tied to the bed. The filthy apartment was strewn with plastic bags, empty alcohol bottles and trash.
Empty containers of Claritin and Benadryl were in bins; prosecutors said the girl had up to 60 adult doses of Claritin and 30 doses of Benadryl in her system when she was found.
The trial of Marchella’s mother and grandmother started on Monday. Carlotta Brett Pierce is accused of beating, starving and drugging the girl, who died from battered child syndrome.
Her attorney claims she was a good mother, while the grandmother’s defense team argued she was unaware of any abuse even though she was the primary caregiver.
When she was released from hospital seven months before her death, she weighed 26lbs.
The Administration for Children’s Services became involved with the family after Brett Pierce gave birth to a boy who tested positive for drugs.
Two former ACS workers are also facing charges for their handling of the case.
Damon Adams and Chereece Bell were both charged with criminally negligent homicide, official misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child. Their case will begin after this trial finishes.
After Marchella’s death, the child welfare agency said it would change how it dealt with families with complex medical issues.
The City Council also guaranteed $13.6 million for services aimed at preventing abuse and neglect. Case workers have admitted they are still overwhelmed by cases, the Associated Press reported.