In court on Monday morning, 33 year old Joseph Molina pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and child endangerment charges, in connection with the death of 5 month old Natalia Trumble. The child's mother, Wanda Trumble, was also in court, charged with assault and reckless child endangerment in the case.
As we showed you last November, neighbors confronted and accused Molina at the infant's James Street apartment building home. So, why did it take almost 9 months to bring charges?
We talked with Dr. Ann Botash, who is a Child Abuse Pediatrician working in the Child Abuse Referral and Evaluation (CARE) program at SUNY Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital and the McMahon-Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
She says her job is to look for evidence of abuse, "and we're looking at, say a child has a fracture, we're looking at it and saying gee, could it be more from an accident or more from abuse?"
Botash is the medical part of a whole team of local investigators who go to work. "All it takes is a suspicion," she says, but getting the evidence can take months, as in this case.
As importantly, the system--which includes law enforcers, child protective, and several service and support agencies--provides help or families to prevent serious injury or death. They've developed a series of positive parenting handouts, available through Ryan-McMahon, to help parents through stresses of early childhood, including colic, sleepless nights and toilet training. They're available through pediatricians and clinics, as well.
"The mandate of Child Protective is to keep families together," she says. "So, you provide services and 99.9% of the time it works."
As for when it doesn't, "It's quite frustrating when you see a child fall through the cracks like that." Any death triggers Onondaga County's Child Fatality Board, which reviews the case and aims to prevent future deaths.
Botash is one of 200 Child Abuse Pediatricians in the country (one of 2 in Syracuse). Pediatricians do 3 years of specialty work after their residency for the credentials. She helped develop the program when she realized that residents (doctors in specialty training) were seeing child abuse cases in emergency rooms, but did not have good guidelines on how to treat them. She is also working on spreading that 'know how' to other medical professionals in the region through a SUNY Upstate program.
There is no lack of 'business'---within the medical part alone of abuse investigating, Dr. Botash says they see about 300 children a year.