A 13-year-old boy was charged Monday with second-degree murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl he was baby-sitting.
The Whitesboro teen pleaded not guilty in Floyd Town Court and was being held without bail pending a hearing on Friday, State Police Capt. Mark Lincoln said at a news conference.
The boy, a family friend who was baby-sitting Melissa Calhoun, is accused of striking Melissa in the face with his hand; shoving her so hard that she hit her head on the floor and a table; hitting her head with a refrigerator door; and sexually assaulting her, causing her to hemorrhage.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said the murder charge was filed so the teen could be tried in criminal court, rather than family court. Under New York law, the only charge he could face as a juvenile is second-degree murder.
Authorities said Melissa was found dead by her mother Saturday morning at her home in the Utica suburb of Yorkville.
Lincoln said the mother, Irene Calhoun, arrived home around 1 a.m., checked on Melissa, thought she was OK and went to sleep. The mother called 911 shortly before 9 a.m. when she discovered the toddler was unresponsive, Lincoln said.
An autopsy determined the cause of death was internal bleeding from an injury to the back of her head.
The investigation continued, McNamara said.
"There is a lot of work still to be done," he said. "She deserves justice."
If convicted, the teen faces a maximum penalty of 9 years to life in prison and a minimum of 5 years in prison.
Defense attorney Richard Bach, who entered the not guilty plea, said he had not yet talked at length with his client and declined comment.
"It's really too early," Bach said. "But I would like to extend on behalf of myself and the whole community my sincerest sympathies to the family. I hope with God's help it can ease this terrible moment."