2006-02-03 / Community

Man Indicted In Young Daughter’s Death

By Brian Magoolaghan

An Arverne man, who allegedly inflicted deadly injuries on his 7-year-old daughter when he repeatedly kneed the little girl in her stomach, was indicted Tuesday on manslaughter and child endangerment charges.

According to the grand jury indictment, Russell Roberts, 43, began a vicious string of abuse on November 23, 2005, when he repeatedly slammed his knee into the stomach of his daughter, Sierra.

The abuse continued the next night, when Roberts bent Sierra over – forcing her stomach on the edge of a bed – so that he could whip her buttocks with a belt.

Roberts ignored Sierra’s injuries until two days after his initial attack. A 911 call eventually brought police and EMS to the residence, and Sierra was rushed to Peninsula Hospital Center.

She died within minutes of her arrival. The Medical Examiner discovered a ruptured bowel and internal laceration.

Roberts, of 72-21 Hillmeyer Avenue, is charged with first and second degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

“[Robert’s] alleged attack on his innocent and vulnerable daughter was both heartless and heartbreaking and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Brown.

The little girl’s death marked a miserable ending to a life that now seems to have been doomed from the start. Sierra tested positive for cocaine when she was born; her mother used the drug while pregnant and also tested positive.

The Administration for Children’s Services filed a petition in family court and was able to place Sierra with a foster family after showing that both of her parents were unfit.

Roberts visited Sierra on weekends and regained custody in 2001 after he underwent drug counseling, parent training and ACS helped him find suitable housing.

ACS learned in 2003 that Sierra suffered a fractured leg and, six months earlier, a fractured spine.

ACS began an investigation during which Roberts told them that his daughter hurt her back when she had fallen. Her leg injury, he said, happened when he was carrying her up a flight of stars and he fell. ACS concluded that there was “no evidence of abuse or neglect.”

ACS is under fire after a recent spate of deaths involving children with cases under the jurisdiction of the agency. District Attorney Brown addressed that issue this week in an Op-Ed in the New York Post and again when he announced Robert’s indictment.

“For weeks the emotional issue of child abuse has dominated the news and has clearly highlighted the need to update our criminal laws to give law enforcement the ability to effectively prosecute crimes against children who suffer neglect, mistreatment or abuse,” said Brown. “It is clear that tough new laws are necessary to respond to such tragedies.

But beyond that, strong measures must also be taken to protect children at the very first indication that they are being mistreated.

“We need laws to address the reckless killing of a child. While a small percentage of abusers intentionally kill children, the vast majority of child deaths resulting from abuse are caused by reckless acts of caregivers, such as sudden violent beatings and shakings… Yet existing law does not allow prosecutors to bring sufficiently serious felony charges for purely reckless child homicides, no matter how horrific the death,” the District Attorney said.

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