Wednesday, October 26, 2011
A Harvey teenager who admitted to detectives that she put a baby in a clothes dryer so she could watch television without disturbance was indicted Thursday on a charge of second-degree murder.
Arielle Smith, 19, is accused of killing Andre Jenkins, 5 months old, on Sept. 11. Smith was watching the infant, his 18-month-old brother, and her 1-year-old son in her home at 512 MacArthur Drive. She was caring for the two brothers for her friend, who was at work, authorities said.
"She was trying to watch something on television," Assistant District Attorney Amanda Calogero said. "She put the two older kids in a room, and she put the baby in the dryer" and turned it on.
During the three minutes Andre was in the dryer, he suffered skull fractures and extensive burns, Calogero said. The baby died at the scene, she said.
Smith initially told detectives that a pot of boiling water fell on the infant, Calogero said. She changed her story to say she hid Andre in the dryer as they played a game of hide-and-seek and that her son must have turned the dryer on.
Pressed further by detectives, Smith admitted that the children "were rambunctious and interfering with her television show," according to a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office probable-cause affidavit.
Smith told detectives she removed clothing from the dryer, put the child in it and started the machine. Smith later removed the unresponsive baby, put the clothing back in the dryer and called her boyfriend and the baby's mother before calling authorities, according to the affidavit. Paramedics found the baby on Smith's living room floor with burns on his face, head, arms, legs and feet.
A judge last month found Smith was mentally competent at the time of the crime and is able to stand trial, court records show.
Smith's attorney Davidson Ehle declined comment.
Detectives booked Smith with first-degree murder Sept. 11, a charge that allows the death penalty, but a magistrate judge last year found evidence sufficient to hold her on the lesser charge, records show. If convicted of second-degree murder, Smith would face a mandatory life sentence in prison.
She is held in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in lieu of a $500,000 bond set Thursday by Judge Glenn Ansardi of the 24th Judicial District Court.