Appeals court upholds decision on toddler Woman who killed infant allowed custody of son, 2

July 10, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Court of Special Appeals upheld yesterday a Montgomery County judge's decision to return a toddler to his mother, even though she killed her baby daughter in 1992. The court also denied the adoption request of the woman who is still taking care of the boy.

The ruling in the emotionally charged case -- if not appealed to the state's highest court -- clears the way for Latrena Pixley to have her 2-year-old son, Cornilous, returned to her at the end of summer.

The case has created a storm of controversy over when -- and if -- a parent who is convicted of killing an infant can be considered rehabilitated and trustworthy with another child, and whether state laws favor biological parents too heavily.

Lawyers for Pixley, who is on probation and moved last month from a halfway house into transitional housing in Washington that allows children, said she was pleased.

"Latrena Pixley has changed momentously since that incident involving her daughter," said Ralph E. Hall Jr., one of Pixley's lawyers.

Attorneys for the child and for Laura Blankman, a Montgomery County police officer who has cared for Cornilous since he was 4 months old, declined to comment.

But adoption advocates were livid.

William L. Pierce, president of the National Council for Adoption, said he was astounded that judges rule that "blood is more important than anything else, that race is a major factor and that one's murderous conduct to a sibling is irrelevant." Blankman is white; the toddler is black.

The three-judge panel held that Circuit Judge Michael D. Mason did not err in ruling that because Pixley smothered one child, it does not automatically mean Cornilous would be in danger five years later.

Pixley, then 19, pleaded guilty in District of Columbia Superior Court in March 1993 to second-degree murder in the death of her 44-day-old daughter. Pixley claimed she was suffering from post-partum depression. She was placed on probation and ordered to spend weekends in jail.

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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