Recently a story circulated in the news about an 8-year-old who had been charged with murder after beating an infant to death. The child had been left to babysit while his mother and her roommate went out for a night on the town, and reacted with deadly rage when the baby would not stop crying.
There is plenty of outrage to direct toward negligent parenting here—and debate about whether an 8-year-old should be charged with such a serious crime—but this kind of tragedy has occurred before. It’s undeniably true that leaving your kids in someone else’s care always involves some element of risk.
Here are 8 recent examples of babysitters who committed murder—or at least made deadly mistakes—while left in charge:
8. Marquita Burch, 2012
Thirteen-month-old William Cunningham was being cared for by Marquita Burch, a friend of his mother’s, when he reportedly went missing. Burch told authorities that the toddler had wandered off, and a desperate search ensued.
It wasn’t long before the 26-year-old babysitter changed her story. Burch claimed that she found William lying at the bottom of the stairs. Rather than take the child (who was still alive) to the hospital, Burch says she panicked, put William in a garbage bag, and stashed him in a closet at her cousin’s home.
William died from a brain injury the next day. Burch was found guilty of endangering a child, involuntary manslaughter, and abusing a corpse. She was sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison.
7. Frederick Mitchell, 2013
Image: Hamilton County Sheriff
Twenty-one-year-old Frederick Mitchell was babysitting the 6-month-old son of a housemate when he threw the boy against the wall for reasons unknown. The baby, Elliot Megrditchian, was taken to the hospital, where he died a few days later from skull fractures and other injuries.
Mitchell was charged with felonious assault and murder, and he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. The babysitter’s mother claims that Mitchell suffers from blackouts and believes the tragedy was just an accident.
Mitchell will spend the next 20 years in prison.
6. Gabriela Gonzales, 2011
Image: Richmond Police
Gabriela Gonzales was illegally smuggled into the United States and forced into prostitution when she was 19 years old. After leaving that dangerous situation behind, Gonzales—along with her significant other and a child—moved in with a group of people in Richmond, Virginia. When one of her housemates went out of town in search of work, Gonzales was left to care for the woman’s 2-year-old daughter, Kiery Nicole Dominguez Martinez.
Kiery was inconsolably fussy, the result of a painful rash. In her frustration, Gonzales violently shook the toddler, choked her, and beat her head against the bathtub. Kiery was placed on life support but died after three days. The autopsy revealed brain and spinal cord hemorrhages and multiple skull fractures.
Gonzales told police that Kiery injured herself while jumping on the bed. She even claimed that the child had accidentally strangled herself. Gonzales, who showed no remorse, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and is no longer allowed to see her own child.
5. Agnes Wong, 2007
Agnes Wong, an immigrant living in Manchester, England, was hired to care for 16-month-old Hugo Wang. When the child was taken to the hospital for a blow to the head, other injuries were quickly discovered. Wong had been abusing Hugo for weeks. The little boy was covered in bite marks, bruises, and burns.
Wong claimed that she did not abuse Hugo but rather disciplined him when he was misbehaving. The burns, she claimed, were the result of the boy’s playing with a hairdryer. Hugo died from severe head trauma, for which Wong was found responsible.
Wong was sentenced to five years for manslaughter. After serving only two years, she was released and deported to her native Malaysia. The British government gave her a voucher for £4,500 to return to Malaysia. The payment was made to save British taxpayer dollars and to induce Wong to waive her rights to appeal deportation.