By Ed Brock
A 12-year-old Riverdale boy is still the major suspect in the beating death of his 2-year-old niece despite a report that the boy's mother saw the girl's father shaking her on the day she lost consciousness.
After a hearing in Clayton County Juvenile Court, the 12-year-old was allowed to go home on supervised confinement. He faces charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the girl's death.
Ursula Fielteau, 47, made the report about the girl's father, Derwin Slocum of Witney Point, N.Y., to investigators with the Department of Family and Children Services several days after her son's arrest, Clayton County police Capt. Jeff Turner said, but there are no charges pending against Slocum.
On Sept. 24, Derwin Slocum, 28, and his wife Janine Slocum, 21, and their three daughters were visiting Fielteau, Janine Slocum's mother, at a home on Black Bend Court near Riverdale.
The Slocums, Fielteau and Fielteau's 21-year-old daughter left during the day to go car shopping, leaving the three girls, ages 1 to 3 years, with Fielteau's two sons, the 12-year-old suspect and a 19-year-old.
The 19-year-old went to work and left the 12-year-old in charge of the children, and when the adults returned they found that the girl was not breathing. She was taken to Egleston Children's Healthcare where she died on Oct. 2.
Turner said that the cause of death was a blow to the head.
"There was no evidence to indicate that the child suffered injuries due to being shaken," Turner said.
But that's not what the 12-year-old's lawyer Hank Johnson of Decatur understood. The cause of death was inconclusive, Johnson said, and could have been a blow to the head or "shaken baby syndrome" or a combination of both.
Johnson also said that Fielteau's report came up during the recent hearing. Also, the legal process has been suspended as the case continues to be investigated, Johnson said.
"There is some question about other suspects," Johnson said. "My client has always proclaimed his innocence. He has been wrongfully accused and it was a rush to judgment."
When asked if his client hit the 2-year-old Johnson said that the boy denies causing the child's death.
Turner said previously that the boy told police he hit the girl because she wouldn't be quiet but Fielteau denied that her son confessed to hitting the girl.
DFCS is still investigating the case, said D'Anna Liber, manager of DFCS Special Investigations Unit, so she declined to comment on specifics such as Fielteau's report.
"It definitely is a very complicated matter and still is definitely under investigation," Liber said. "We're still looking for any other person who might have been responsible."