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American Indian and Alaska Native children are about three times more likely than Caucasian children to be placed in out-of-home care.

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Foster Parent on trial for burn death of child

Defendant says she treated scalded child

UTICA — When manslaughter defendant Rosemary Davis didn't hear 22-month-old Erickyzha Warner playing in the bathtub a few days before Memorial Day, she entered the bathroom to see if the child was okay.

"She was lying in the bathtub and the hot water was on and steam was coming up," according to Davis' statements to Utica police on file in Oneida County Court and reviewed by the Observer-Dispatch. "She was sitting up but just leaning back ... she was just looking into the sky."

Davis told police she then pulled the toddler out of the steaming water, covered her with a towel, laid her on the kitchen table and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The child responded with open eyes and laughter.

The 51-year-old legal guardian treated the girl's burns for the next few days, according to her statements to police, but never sought professional medical attention until Memorial Day when she called 911 after the child's condition worsened. The toddler was pronounced dead hours later.

Because Davis didn't seek help sooner, she was charged with second-degree manslaughter. On Tuesday in Oneida County Court, she pleaded not guilty to the class C felony. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. She's being held on $40,000 bail.

Davis also was offered a plea bargain Tuesday from the District Attorney's office to dispose of the case. Davis and her attorney, public defender Peter Bereskin, have until Friday, Aug. 6, to decide whether to accept it, Judge Michael L. Dwyer said.

Assistant District Attorney Dawn Catera Lupi said the offer includes pleading guilty to the second-degree manslaughter charge, but would not disclose what the sentence would include.

Davis, who lived at 714 Saratoga St. at the time and was the legal guardian of Erickyzha, told police she drew enough water in the tub at about noon on Thursday or Friday -- prior to Memorial Day -- so the water came up to just above her legs.

She then placed Erickyzha in the tub and left her in the care of Bobby J. Noid, who lives out of town but visits the area and has watched Erickyzha before, Davis said in her statement.

Davis told police she then cleaned the house for about 10 to 15 minutes and repeatedly asked Noid if the baby was alright, and he responded yes.

But at one point when Davis saw Noid sitting in a kitchen chair, it upset her so she checked on Erickyzha herself, according to her statements. That's when she found the toddler apparently unconscious and took her out of the tub, documents stated.

Prosecutors and police early in the case said it was possible another person may be charged, but Lupi Tuesday said additional arrests don't appear likely, and that anyone else in the house at the time may just be used as a witness in the case.

During the next few days following the bath, Davis treated the girl's burns on her legs and bottom side with peroxide and ointment and followed advice she obtained from a medical book that a family friend dropped off.

When the landlord, Craig Loomis, visited at one point, Davis told police that she told Loomis to check the water heater in the basement because the water "was too damn hot." Loomis went to the basement, returned and told her he turned it down, she said.

Davis said in her statement that Erickyzha still was eating, drinking water and smiling during the next few days until Memorial Day, when she was not responding in a normal manner.

Davis said she then called 911.

Erickyzha died at St. Elizabeth Medical Center due to bacterial infection that led to cardiac arrest, according to Davis' indictment.

Davis' son, Simon, 32, was in court Tuesday at his mother's arraignment. He said he disagreed with his mother's decision to treat Erickyzha at home. He said he received a call the day Erickyzha was burned but didn't go to see her.

"I didn't realize how serious the burns were," he said. "She should have taken her to the hospital."

Erickyzha ended up in Davis' custody after she was taken out of the care of her biological mother, Misheena Watson, 23, of Bleecker Street. Davis was a friend of the family and had experience raising her own children and another foster child.

Watson -- who last week said she has gone through grief counseling, parenting classes and drug rehabilitation -- feels that manslaughter isn't a severe enough charge against Rosemary Davis.

"If she really cared, she would have taken my baby to the hospital," Watson said.

Also in court Tuesday were Erickyzha's paternal grandparents, Henry Darby and Tammy Warner. They were in the process of trying to get custody of Erickyzha when the child died.

They have continued the custody process even after the girl's death, Darby said. He feels that delays and hurdles in the custody process kept Erickyzha from his home for too long, he said.

"I want the courts to know that she had a home to come to, that she was loved," Darby said.

This article was originally published on Utica Observer-Dispatch and is no longer available online.

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