Parents get prison in deaths of twins

January 11, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,sun reporter

The Baltimore parents convicted of starving and beating to death their twin babies in May 2004 were sentenced yesterday - the father's 30-year prison term twice as long as the mother's.

Assistant State's Attorney Julie Drake argued that Nathaniel Broadway "was the author of this entire tragedy" because he controlled Sierra Swann, 20, seven years his junior, beating her and refusing to let her feed the children because they were "spoiled."

But Broadway's lawyer, Jeffrey G. Kinstler, said Swann's characterization of Broadway was unreliable - that she blamed him only to win a better plea deal.

Both parents pleaded guilty, Swann to two counts of child abuse resulting in death and Broadway to second-degree murder.

In Swann's sentencing hearing, held several hours after Broadway's, Drake also called Swann "dishonest," even though the prosecutor had been planning to call her as the main witness against Broadway had he not agreed to a plea deal.

"I'm never quite sure what to know or what to believe when something comes out of her mouth," Drake told the judge.

The facts of the case horrified the city.

The Broadway twins, Emonney and Emunnea, died a day before their 1-month birthday in the dirty basement apartment of a dilapidated rowhouse in Northeast Baltimore that lacked basic necessities such as running water.

The babies were severely malnourished, weighing less in death than they did at birth. And they were badly battered; each had skull and rib fractures.

When he sentenced Broadway to the maximum allowed under the plea agreement - two concurrent terms of 50 years with all but 30 years suspended - Circuit Judge Allen L. Schwait remarked about the absence of remorse that Broadway and other defendants over the years have shown.

"It's almost an absence of feeling that people have," Schwait said.

Circuit Judge Roger W. Brown sentenced Swann to two terms of 30 years with all but 15 years suspended. Prosecutors had been seeking a 20-year term.

In Swann's sentencing hearing, Drake said the mother had been remorseful, though another investigator noted that the woman was sarcastic and seemed not to appreciate the severity of the offenses.

"She was a badly damaged teenager," said Michael D. Montemarano, her attorney. "She had no adults supporting her."

Swann, the child of a drug-addicted mother of eight, was 13 or 14 when she began having a sexual relationship with Broadway, Drake said. By 15, she had had a child by him. That girl is in foster care.

Drake and the defense attorneys said yesterday that some of the blame for the twins' deaths rests with the child welfare system.

The first child of the couple had been removed because of abuse and neglect, yet when officials at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the twins were born, called the Department of Social Services, social workers said there were no "flags" on Swann.

Hospital workers sent the babies home with the parents.

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