Baltimore man enters guilty plea in killing of 2-month-old daughter

He initially reported baby was kidnapped, prompting statewide Amber Alert

December 10, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore man who tried to cover up the killing of his infant daughter by telling police she had been taken by an unlicensed cabdriver pleaded guilty yesterday in city Circuit Court to unintentionally smothering the baby.

Kenneth Gabriel Jenkins Jr., 21, caused Maryland's first Amber Alert highway warning system in February by telling police one of his 2-month-old twin daughters, A'Shia, had been kidnapped.

Yesterday, he entered an Alford plea to one count of involuntary manslaughter in A'Shia's death. He could receive up to 10 years in prison. The plea means Jenkins concedes that the state has enough evidence to find him guilty of killing the infant.

Jenkins killed A'Shia on Feb. 11 at his home in the 2500 block of Francis St., prosecutors said, and then threw her body in a trash bin. It was never found.

In an attempt to cover up the killing, Jenkins told police that an unlicensed cabdriver drove away with A'Shia. That prompted an interstate search for her, snarling traffic across the region. The Amber Alert -- a nationwide police code for a missing child -- apparently frightened and confused motorists, because it appeared on electronic highway signs the day that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network was encouraging attacks on U.S. interests.

Prosecutor Julie Drake said Jenkins didn't like the baby because she cried too much and that he put a pillow over her face for at least three to five minutes. He spared A'Shia's twin, Aliah, because she was not crying. "He disliked A'Shia because she cried too much but liked Aliah because she was the quieter baby," Drake said.

Jenkins had been indicted and charged with first-degree murder, child abuse and making false statements to police. He could have received a life sentence if convicted of the charges.

James L. Rhodes, Jenkins' lawyer, said his client did not intend to kill the baby. Jenkins was sleeping next to A'Shia and rolled his arm over, killing her, Rhodes said.

The baby's mother, Lakeisha Ballou, 20, stormed out of the courtroom yesterday when the plea agreement was announced. "That's bull!" she repeatedly yelled outside the courthouse.

Drake said she thought the plea was "fair and reasonable." She said a 10-year sentence was not adequate for the crime, but is the maximum allowable.

Rhodes said he thought his client got a better deal than he would have in a trial.

"Emotions run high in these types of cases, especially because of the events that happened after," he said.

City police were alerted that A'Shia was missing about 8:30 a.m., when Jenkins called 911 from a pay phone, police said.

At first, Jenkins told detectives that he was with his twin daughters and hailed an unlicensed taxi, known as a hack, and after driving a few blocks, the driver pulled a gun and robbed him. He was ordered out of the car and could get only one of the twins before the driver took off, Jenkins told police.

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