Defendant in baby death cleared of severest charges

Woman to be retried on lesser murder count

June 24, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien and Dan Thanh Dang | Dennis O'Brien and Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

A 30-year-old Owings Mills woman was acquitted of first- and second-degree murder yesterday by a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury in the death in July of a 4-month--old baby who was struck on the head and severely shaken.

But Thu Thi Le is expected to be retried on "depraved heart murder" and child abuse charges in the case after jurors told Judge John G. Turnbull II they were deadlocked on those counts. Depraved heart murder is a separate charge that does not require specific intent to kill.

Turnbull agreed to release Le on $20,000 bail after the verdict.

Le, of the 300 block of Kendig Drive, was charged in the death of Kimdang Thi Le. The two are not related.

According to testimony, Le agreed to watch the baby girl in Le's home while the parents worked. Gill Cochran, Le's lawyer, said Le and the baby's mother, Kimdung Thi Le, were close friends.

Le, who had been babysitting for the family for about three months, called the parents about 6:30 p.m. July 2 to report that the baby appeared ill.

"She said, `There's something wrong with the baby, she vomited,'" Danh Ngoc Thu, the child's father, said through an interpreter.

When the parents arrived at Le's home, the baby's head was bruised, she appeared listless, and her eyes peered off in two different directions, according to testimony.

The child was pronounced dead five days later on July 7 at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In closing arguments yesterday, prosecutors said that the child's injuries could only be the work of an adult.

"We're talking about force that cracks a child's skull," Assistant State's Attorney Susan Hazlett told jurors.

But Cochran said that the baby could have died from injuries inflicted accidentally by Le's 11-year-old daughter, Ngan, or her 3-year-old son, An, who were at home at the time.

The next trial is expected within the next six months.

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