Girl, 12, beaten at party emerges from coma

2 women, 3 teens charged in West Baltimore attack

March 12, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

FIVE PEOPLE — A 12-year-old girl who was viciously beaten at a friend's birthday party in West Baltimore emerged from a coma yesterday as authorities continued to piece together what happened and who participated in the violence.

Five people -- two women and three teens -- have been charged in the incident, accused of kicking, stomping on and punching Nicole Ashley Townes until she was bloodied and unconscious.

Nicole, who lives in the 400 block of Lyndhurst St., had been in a coma since the attack Feb. 28. She was listed in critical condition last night at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

She is breathing on her own and responding to questions with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, said Detective Donny Moses of the Baltimore Police Department.

Monique Baldwin, 36, of the 500 block of Loudon Ave., and Erin Baldwin, 19, address unknown, were charged with attempted murder, assault and false imprisonment, court documents show. Both women are being held without bail in the city jail.

The motivation for the attack was that a boy kissed Nicole on a dare during the birthday party at the home of Monique Baldwin, according to the documents.

"It was that kiss," Moses said yesterday. "None of it makes sense to me. They got angry over that kiss."

At West Baltimore Middle School yesterday, where Nicole is a sixth-grader, pupils, teachers and administrators were saddened, and dozens of her classmates made get-well cards.

"Nicole helped ... another sixth-grader with her reading," teacher Frann Fischer said yesterday. "She listened to her read, and if the other little girl had some difficulty, she would help her. She was like a mother hen. A very good student, very conscientious."

Monique Baldwin, who was giving the party for her 13-year-old daughter, appeared to be the instigator of the attack, according to court records, as she repeatedly ordered her two daughters, 13 and 14, and her 7-year-old son to beat and stomp on Nicole until she was limp. And it was the kiss, documents said, that precipitated the attack.

A woman who family members say was Nicole's primary caretaker, Kenya Keene, was also charged in the crime. Keene is a friend of Nicole's family and had become a mother figure to the girl after Nicole's mother, Bonita Wilson, failed to take care of the child, according to family members.

Keene, 25, is charged with assault, conspiracy to commit child abuse and making a false statement to an officer. She is being held in lieu of $35,000 bail.

Documents state that although Keene was not at the party at the time of the beating, she knew what had occurred and lied to police about Nicole's injuries when officers arrived at Baldwin's house.

After the incident, Keene told police that Nicole had suffered a diabetic episode and had fallen down, which "misled the doctors," according to documents. Keene "ultimately prevented hospital staff from accurately treating [Nicole] for the trauma she had sustained from the beatings," records said.

Nicole and her half-sister, Brenda Bailey, 11, were attending the party in the 500 block of N. Louden Ave. when the boy kissed Nicole. Soon after, several people surrounded Nicole and Brenda.

Monique Baldwin told her 14-year-old daughter to "handle your business," at which point the girl and her sister began to slap, punch and kick Nicole and Brenda, documents show. The 13-year-old stomped on Nicole's head, and the 14-year-old kicked her in the stomach, according to a witness statement in court documents.

Monique Baldwin further encouraged the two girls to strike Nicole in the head, yelling: "We don't take body shots. We do the head," according to documents.

The beating continued, according to police accounts, and the 7-year-old son was encouraged to join in.

Later, Monique Baldwin instructed her family to close the windows and turn up the music to muffle cries by Nicole and Brenda, the charging documents said.

Brenda, who suffered less severe injuries than Nicole, has been placed in the care of the Child Protective Services, police said.

Nicole's mother could not be reached for comment yesterday. Bonita Wilson has been at the hospital with her daughter, according to Nicole's maternal grandmother, Jerelean Wilson.

The grandmother said that she adopted Keene two years ago, which is when Keene started caring for Nicole and Brenda.

Nicole's mother often stayed in her room, rarely coming out or interacting with people, said the Rev. Durrell Williams, pastor of Full Gospel Deliverance Church, where Nicole is a junior usher.

Williams said he frequently saw the children with Keene and almost never with their mother.

"She didn't leave the house," Williams said of Bonita Wilson.

Jerelean Wilson said her daughter essentially gave up caring for her children.

"I wouldn't say she wasn't able to care for her children," Jerelean Wilson said. "She just didn't do it. Kenya took over the mother part."

But police say Keene could be violent with the girls. Just before the birthday party started, Keene had chased Brenda into a bathroom and beaten her for "unknown reasons," according to documents.

"Keene made several comments about if she hits her and breaks a nail she would be in serious trouble," court documents said. "In fact, it is at this time Kenya Keene breaks her nail striking victim Brenda Bailey in the head several times."

Rodney Bailey, the father of Brenda Bailey, said yesterday that he is horrified by the attack on his daughter. He said he is hoping to regain full custody of the child as soon as possible.

"I just want to get her back as soon as I can," Bailey said.

Sun staff writers Lynn Anderson, Laurie Willis and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

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