MARCHELLA PIERCE TIED TO HER BED, BEATEN, DRUGGED AND STARVED, DIED AT AGE 4 WEIGHING 18 POUNDS – CCA0066 – UPDATED 07.21.2013
MARCHELLA PIERCE TIED TO HER BED, BEATEN, DRUGGED AND STARVED, DIED AT AGE 4 WEIGHING 18 POUNDS
Marchella Pierce was a beautiful, innocent 4 year old. However, for the 4 short years that she graced our world, she knew nothing but pain, fear and torture.
Marchella was born prematurely with under developed lungs. When the little girl wasn’t in the hospital, where she spent the first 3 ½ years of her life, she was amidst the confusion and aggression, of a long history of a drug laced family.
The family had lived in the Marcy Houses public housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, since Marchella’s great-grandmother Leola Brown moved her family in. Leola had two daughters, Loretta Brett and Martha. The family grew when Martha had two children and Loretta had a daughter, Carlotta Brett-Pierce. Martha became a nurse, but died of cancer at a young age. There were no husbands or fathers in the picture. Marchella’s grandmother, Loretta, and mother, Carlotta, were known to have fiery tempers. The two were known to regularly smoke marijuana and crack. Carlotta was arrested twice for criminal possession and assault. She had claimed to be a model and an entrepreneur, however relatives stated that she has never worked.
Neighbours recall the havoc the women unleashed in their neighbourhood. One neighbour, Evelyn Rizzo, stated that the two were trouble makers and even glancing at them could set them off. She stated that Carlotta once threw a padlock at her, hitting her in the face. Another neighbour reported an assault to police after Loretta had punched her while Carlotta smashed her with a bat. “They were just evil,” says Elizabeth Soto, who also lives in the building. Loretta had used a razor blade to cut Elizabeth’s head on one occasion. When Elizabeth was pregnant, Carlotta threatened “to give her an abortion.” The situation escalated and Elizabeth was granted an order of protection against the two women. Police were called a countless number of times on Loretta and Carlotta. Neighbours had finally had enough and petitioned for the Bretts to be kicked out. The Bretts then discovered they indeed had a problem, the lease for the apartment was in Leola Brown’s name, and she had passed away in 2001. Loretta and Carlotta forged Leola’s name on documents after she had passed away in an effort to claim the apartment. In 2005, much to the relief of the residents in the complex, the New York City Housing Authority evicted the Bretts.
Carlotta began to date, and later marry, Tyrone Pierce who lived in a companion building. Tyrone was bad news himself, having been arrested twice for drug charges by the time he was 16. Tyrone continued to get into trouble and the charges against him quickly escalated. In 1998, he pled guilty to robbery after being accused of a string of thefts as well as drug possession. In June of 2004, he was released on parole, but it didn’t take long for him to violate that parole. Several months after his release he attended his mother’s funeral in South Carolina without permission from the court. He was returned to prison and Carlotta gave birth to their first son while he was incarcerated. Tyrone was once again released in September of 2005. Shortly after his release Carlotta became pregnant with twins.
Marchella Pierce and her twin sister, Miracle, came into this world weighing a mere 1 pound and 4 ounces. Relatives recall thinking how the girls were the size of a 1L Pepsi bottle. Sadly, Miracle passed away shortly after being born. Marchella however, fought and her struggle to remain alive and then go through the plethora of illnesses which she had seemed insurmountable to survive. Despite all odds being against her, Marchella pulled through. Marchella was shuffled around at least six health care facilities before she became strong enough to go home. She had a tracheal tube, which required regular cleaning. The final extended care facility Marchella entered before going home was the Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility. Northwoods was well known, however not known for anything good. For years the State Health Department had faulted it for a myriad violations, including neglect and medication errors. In 2007, Northwoods was placed on a federal watch list of homes with persistent serious problems. While visiting Marchella at the facility, her family told relatives that they had received training at Northwoods for how to care for Marchella in preparation for the little girl being brought home.
Tyrone and Carlotta separated before Marchella was brought home, Carlotta was pregnant at the time. The couple had a volatile relationship, fighting every day. Carlotta would not allow Tyrone to see their son when she became angry that Tyrone was not helping financially. Carlotta’s sister-in-law, Shaquanna Parnell, stated that Carlotta would only take cabs to see Marchella, at a cost of $130 one way, so money was absolutely an issue within this family. Towards the end up their relationship, Carlotta would often call Parnell leaving messages on her machine saying ‘I’m going to hurt him.’ On February 9, 2009, Tyrone called the police saying that his wife would not let him get his clothes. When police arrived, Tyrone was gone. In October, police were again called to the home, this time by Carlotta, who claimed that Tyrone slapped her. Authorities noticed a cut inside her lip. Once again, Tyrone was gone when they arrived. Police continued to make trips to the home, but were unable to locate Tyrone until December 7. When they arrived at the home, Carlotta would not allow authorities into the home, however they located Tyrone outside and placed him under arrest. When domestic abuse occurs with children in the home, police protocol is to notify the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. At the time they domestic altercation took place, police were unaware that there were even children in the home, therefore no notification was sent.
It was in November of 2009 when the family was first reported to the child protection agencies. Carlotta give birth to their third child, and the baby boy tested positive for drugs. The case was assigned to the Child Development Support Corporation. At this time, the courts, officials and CPS never even knew Marchella existed as she was residing in Northwoods. Carlotta was enrolled in drug treatment, but was completely noncompliant. She continued to use drugs and was aggressive towards workers, even threatening one at one point.
On February 9, 2010, Marchella was finally able to come home from Northwoods. Authorities have not determined if the facility knew Carlotta was a drug user and being monitored by Children’s Services (supposed to be being monitored that is). Marchella weighed a mere 26 pounds, and was thrown into a home that became a torture chamber where Marchella would spend the last days of her life.
The apartment was a small one with little room for everyone residing in the home. One bedroom was used as storage, another Carlotta shared with her two sons, and in the third Marchella slept with her grandmother. Carlotta’s cousins slept in the living room. The home was not a happy one, and it did not take long for things to fall apart. A month after being brought home, Carlotta brought Marchella to the hospital because her breathing tube had malfunctioned. Carlotta was completely nonchalant and refused to learn how to tend to the tube (remember she once claimed to have had training for taking care of Marchella). Hospital staff placed a call to the child abuse registry. An investigator was sent to the home and reported Carlotta was hostile and in need of evaluation. This was the one and only visit ever made to the home. The agency then assigned the family’s case to Damon Adams, who had been there since 2006. Adams had what looked to be a great foundation for the job having attended Tufts University where he studied psychology and childhood development. Unfortunately Adams didn’t do his job and never even visited the family. In 2005, the agency was put on a watch list for poor performance, and the next year giving it a “needs improvement” rating. In March of 2008, after an audit by the city, the agency was found to make insufficient visits to families and did not test parents in substance abuse treatment. In April of 2010, when the city announced new contracts, the agency was not allowed to bid due to “performance issues”. Now remember Marchella has just spent a little under a year in an acute care facility that was also found to be completely lacking in the care of their patients.
So far, with the family, the care facilities and protective agencies, ALL FAILING, Marchella never really had a chance. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. In May, the agency went on to recommend that the Pierce case be closed, saying the home was stable and the children were safe. The city’s agency and the private agency have done everything they can to shift blame from one to the other, never admitting to have had any responsibility in the way the case was handled. In truth, BOTH agencies are to blame, and BOTH agencies failed. This little girl was not just allowed to slip through the cracks, but was thrown into a canyon left to fend for herself. It makes me sick, and disgusted to think that this is what our world has come to accept as being ok. Adams quickly became the only worker in charge of the Pierce family’s case. Colleagues said that he was diligent and said caseworkers juggled impossible workloads. I say BULLSHIT – STOP WITH THE EXCUSES. These colleagues need to be investigated as well if they are trying to defend Adams’ role in Marchella’s death and rationalize what happened as not being Adams’ fault. After Marchella died, Adams forged documents saying that he had visited the family in an effort to conceal his negligence. He was not the only one to forge records, his supervisor Chereece Bell claimed to have had meetings with Adams regarding the case, to cover up her negligence as well. Bell went on to further state that she had wanted Adams to be transferred because his works was ‘substandard’. Adams had no knowledge of any pending transfer and documentation does not exist to support the claim.
With the family left unchecked, drugs continued to play a large role in the family. Loretta was arrested for possession of marijuana, adding to her previous four arrests, including ones for robbery and assault. Marchella’s health continued to decline. The already small little girl began to lose weight. In July, Marchella and her family attended a party in Harlem. Levonnia Parnell, Marchella’s great-aunt, recalls how she could see Marchella’s bones through her flesh, and many other guests began to question what happened to the little girl and why she was extremely underweight. It was the last time Levonnia would ever see the little girl.
September 2, 2010, was the day that this entire nightmare began to unravel and reveal the truth. It was also the last day Marchella graced this world.
Carlotta placed a 911 call shortly after 7:00 AM, claiming that her daughter was unresponsive and her hands were cold. When an ambulance arrived, Marchella was dead. When police entered the apartment, they found marijuana and crack and witnessed atrocious living conditions. The most disturbing evidence found in the house was the evidence which included Marchella.
Twine was discovered knotted to the little girl’s bedposts. Marchella had ligature marks scarring her ankles, and it was quickly clear what had been occurring. Loretta told authorities that Marchella had been tied up for a part of each day for months. The little girl was covered with bruises and open wounds inflicted by beatings at the hands of Marchella’s mother and grandmother. Blood was spattered on the walls and a video case which was used to beat Marchella, along with a belt that had also been used to beat the little girl. The more investigators looked and the more the learnt, the more they were able to see the horrific life Marchella was forced to live at the hands of these monsters. Carlotta starved Marchella, and at the time of her death, she weighed a mere 18 pounds – the average weight of a 7 month old baby. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Carlotta told investigators that she fed her daughter potato chips, fried chicken and cheese doodles. Even if she actually was feeding the little girl, a diet of junk food was far from what Marchella needed. NO child should be on a diet of junk food – and that is a common known fact, no surprise there. The little girl should have been on a specialized diet and fed through a tube. Horrifically, the autopsy revealed Marchella had a single kernel of corn in her stomach when she died. Despite the little girl’s medical needs, in the 7 months that she was living with her mother and grandmother, she was never once taken to see a pediatrician. This astounds me that no one called this out earlier. How can a child who spent the first 3 ½ years of her life in hospitals and care facilities suddenly come home and need zero medical care. Carlotta force fed the little girl antihistamines, claiming she did so because Marchella was ‘wild’ and would wake up at night to get food. It was revealed after Marchella’s autopsy that she had 60 ADULT DOSES of Claritin and 30 ADULT doses of Benadryl in her system. I strongly believe someone needs to punch Carlotta in the throat when she begins to list excuses for drugging and tying up a sick, weak and starving 4 year old. The coroner ruled the death a homicide, citing cause of death to be drug poisoning, blunt impact injuries and malnutrition.
Marchella’s two brothers were found to be healthy and were removed from the home by authorities. Loretta had attempted to gain custody of the boys, but was denied such. The boys’ father, Tyrone, has never worked. Since leaving prison in 2005, he has been arrested more than 10 times, including charges of driving without a license and possession of marijuana. He is currently living with a girlfriend, a home health care aide, who has several children. Despite his history, he hopes to gain custody of his sons, then 6 and 1, who are now in a foster home. He does see the boys one hour a week, and at a recent hearing his lawyer requested that Tyrone be able to spend more time with them. When a representative for the boys asked if they would like to see their father more, the oldest boy responded no saying that an hour a week was enough. I hate to say that Tyrone has no rights to even speak his children’s names because of his history, especially because he did not abuse his children, and was not aware of the circumstances surrounding Marchella. Could he have done more to stay involved and ensure his children were safe, ABSOLUTELY. Do his children deserve to at least have the opportunity to know their father and as they grow determine for themselves how involved in their lives they want their father to be, ABSOLUTELY. Considering everything, I truly believe that these boys are in the best place possible for them right now. They have been removed from a horrific situation which would have in all likelihood led them down a path of drug use, violence and jail time as the family cycle continued. Now, they are at least given the opportunity to be shown what a good life is. To be shown how to live while respecting others, and more importantly respecting themselves. Who knows what the future holds for these boys, but that future is a little brighter. It is sad to think that these boys received a chance at life, as a result of their sister losing her life.
While attending their sister’s funeral, Marchella’s older brother, Tymel, brought food to make sure that his sister wouldn’t be hungry in heaven. Tymel expressed to his foster mother that he hoped his baby sister would get enough food and water in heaven. My heart breaks for these children. Having 3 boys myself, and having two little sisters, I am fortunate enough to witness the love siblings display for each other. The bond that is forged is unlike any other. You can be fighting and angry with your sibling, but the moment someone else dares to even look at them wrong, you are there ready to defend them. As the oldest child in my family, and watching my oldest son, I can say that you take on a sense of responsibility for your younger siblings. When we were young, I felt the need to look out for my sisters, and make sure that they were ok. I hated seeing them upset, and when one of my sisters was bullied, I became so angry that I had a nice ‘chat’, maybe a warning is a better word, with her bully outside the back of the school. Needless to say, that fool that messed with my sister, didn’t mess with her again. I watched my oldest son grow and protect his baby brothers with a love that is indescribable. Not only was he their protector and best friend, he was their teacher, showing them the way through this world. I can’t imagine the pain Tymel is in as a result of everything that has happened to and in front of him. I can only hope that he knows that he is in no way responsible for his sister’s death, and that he in no way failed her. He loved her, and stood up for her when the time came to put her murderers behind bars, despite the very fact that those murders were his mother and grandmother. He is an amazing young man, and I just know that Marchella is watching over him and is proud to have him as her brother.
Carlotta Brett-Pierce was charged and convicted of murder and was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison. It took jurors less than an hour to convict. Carlotta continued to claim that she was not responsible for Marchella’s murder because she lacked the education, money and training to care for her properly. (WTF?) Carlotta stated “I do not accept responsibility for the actual death of my daughter, because I did not in fact kill her.” I suppose Marchella starved herself and asked to be tied up to her bed then, since no one seems to be responsible. I also never realized that someone needed the education and training to know that a child needs to be fed in order for it to live. During her trial Carlotta stated “To me it didn’t look that bad. She looked like a child who wasn’t sitting on her booty in the hospital all day. She was outside and running around for the first time in her life.” During her testimony, Carlotta denied things which she had already told police and called Marchella ‘my baby’, opposed to ‘that bitch’ – which she was heard calling her in a recorded jail conversation which was played in court. Carlotta can be heard saying “That bitch wasn’t that fucking light.” Justice Patricia M. DiMango of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn stated that Carlotta showed a callous lack of care for her daughter, and her sons who were witness to the abuse.
Carlotta’s oldest son, Tymel, who was 7 at the time of her trial, showed great courage when he took the stand and testified that his sister was not fed often. Tymel testified from a closed-circuit TV in a separate room at the court house as his mother and the jurors watched. The little man answered prosecutors with short, soft-spoken sentences. When Tymel was asked by ADA Perry Cerrato what happened to his little sister, he stated “I asked my mom what happened and she said my sister fell down the stairs.” He also stated that he had seen his mother force his little sister to take adult prescription sleep medication. Tymel has been deeply traumatized by the abuse of his sister and drug use he witnessed within the house. Justice DiMango stated “Food, water and basic human parenting could have kept her alive.” Carlotta was emotionless, and called her conviction a ‘tragedy’, blaming the jurors, lawyers and press for her conviction. Justice DiMango addressed Carlotta directly stating “Marchella lived in a hell hole created and maintained by you. She was imprisoned in the secrecy of her home, where she was supposed to be safe. What type of person would do this to a child, let alone her own child? You demonstrate that type of person.” Justice DiMango has also barred Carlotta from seeing her sons for the next 100 years. I think I may be falling in love with this Judge – imagine if we could clone her, that would be a nice start to changing the way we treat criminals and animals that victimize children.
Loretta Brett was charged and convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 5 to 15 years in jail. In a move that makes her deserve a punch in the throat as well, before sentencing she stated “There’s a great pain in my heart. She is and will be greatly missed by all who know her.” I’m sure her heart wasn’t hurting too much when she was beating Marchella.
Damon Adams, 37, and Chereece Bell, 34, were charged with criminally negligent homicide. This is the first case where city child welfare workers have been incriminated in a child’s death – AND IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME. If convicted, Adams could face 7 years in prison and Bell could face 4 years in prison. Their trial is set to begin in the late summer of 2013.
Looking at photos of Marchella is heart breaking. This beautiful little girl who spent her entire life fighting to survive was forced to endure horrific torture and pain, and was then ripped from this world at the hands of those who were supposed to love and protect her. These were the people that she should have been able to count on for support and encouragement. The people who were supposed to be helping her to overcome her illnesses and continue guiding her on the path to becoming healthier each day. Instead she was tied to a bed, drugged, beaten and starved. I wish I could promise this baby girl that we won’t stop until we have justice for her, but I don’t believe we will ever see justice equally done for what Marchella endured. Until these people are forced to endure exactly what Marchella did, justice will continue to elude us. Knowing this is what drives me to speak louder and to advocate for Marchella and other victimized children to the best of my ability. I may not see justice done for Marchella in my life time – but until I take my last breath, I will continue to advocate for her, and continue to fight to keep her in the public view.