8/24/14, "Bronx woman claims she was ‘wrestling’ with baby before he died at her day care center; police arrest her," NY Daily News, D. Eisinger, C. Nolan, B. Hutchinson
"A state-licensed day care provider was hit with manslaughter charges Sunday stemming from the death of a Bronx toddler she admitted throwing on the floor and stepping on in a twisted “wrestling” match.
Athena Skeeter, 40, who also goes by Athena Cross, described to cops the gruesome details of how she delivered lethal blows to 20-month-old Cardell Williamson and put him in a bath of scalding water.
“She was supposed to provide child care. All she provided was the death of my child,” Cardell’s devastated father, Carlyle Williamson, 56, told the Daily News on Sunday.
The father said city officials forced him to take his son to Skeeter as part of a back-to-work program he qualified for under city welfare rules.
Williamson, who is being trained as a landscaper after completing a court-ordered drug education program, said he hasn’t seen his son’s drug-addled mother, Tomasina Cheatham, 31, in months.
Skeeter, who according to records has been a state-licensed day care provider since 2005, was arraigned Sunday in Bronx Criminal Court on charges of manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. “I was wrestling with Cardell,” Skeeter told detectives in a blow-by-blow of what occurred Friday afternoon inside her home day care center on College Ave. in Claremont, the Bronx, according to a criminal complaint.
“I flipped him on to the bed. I had a lot of stuff on the bed. I lifted him by one arm and one leg and threw him to the floor. The floor was hardwood. I stepped on his stomach three times,” Skeeter told police. “I didn’t use full force. I then threw my son on top of Cardell and stepped on his stomach three times.”
She said Cardell suddenly “acted different” and began to throw up, according to the complaint. “His head kept tilting,” Skeeter told cops. “He couldn’t walk on his own.”
She said she put the boy in the bathtub and put cold water on his face to revive him.
“I step out of the bathroom to put the bath chair outside of the bathroom,” Skeeter said. “I turned around and Cardell was slumped over with his head in the water and steam was coming out of the water.”
She said the child was unresponsive and had burns on his arms and face.
Cops responding to Skeeter’s 911 call just after 2 p.m. Friday rushed the boy to Bronx Lebanon Hospital in their squad car, but doctors were unable to save him.
The city medical examiner’s office ruled Cardell’s death a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to his head and torso.
Skeeter was being held without bail Sunday. She was to return to court Thursday.
State records show no violations were found during the last inspection of Skeeter’s day care on April 18, 2013.
Carlyle Williamson said he was preparing to find a new day care provider after his son suffered several injuries since he started leaving him in Skeeter’s care three or four months ago.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable leaving him in the care of this person, but you have to comply with the rules to be a part of the back-to-work program,” he said.
He told The News his son came home before with bumps and bruises, but the day care operator always had an excuse.
“Two weeks ago he came home with a bump on his head and split lip. She told me he slipped and fell in the kitchen,” Williamson said. “Another time, he came back all scraped up and she said he fell down some steps because his shoes were too tight. She always had a story for what had happened.”
A source familiar with the back-to-work program run by the Human Resources Administration of the Department of Social Services confirmed the city agency offers clients free day care with city- or state-approved providers.
Williamson’s brother said the death of his nephew was especially heartbreaking because the father worked so hard to get custody and be a responsible dad.
“This man has done a complete (180) in the last four or five years,” James Joyce, 54, said of his brother. “He’s been clean, won’t even take a drink. He’s a great father. He’s been a model citizen.”
Williamson said the city Administration for Children’s Services took custody of Cardell from Cheatham after the baby was born.
He said that when he filed for custody, Cheatham showed up in Bronx Family Court to fight for the child. He said he was awarded custody when she stopped appearing for hearings and disappeared from their son’s life.
“We are deeply saddened and concerned by the news about toddler Cardell Williamson, and our agencies are collaborating with the investigation of his tragic death,” said Maibe Ponet, a spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio."
Second: Athena Skeeter operated day care in her home and is charged with manslaughter, NY Daily News photo