A Baltimore City grand jury indicted yesterday on first-degree murdercharges the legal guardian of a teen-age girl who prosecutors said died fromabuse.
Satrina Roberts, 31, was charged with murder and child abuse in the deathof Ciara Jobes, 15. Ciara's emaciated body, weighing just 73 pounds and badlybruised, was found by police in Roberts' kitchen in a Southeast Baltimoreapartment Dec. 11.
Meanwhile, the girl's grandmother, Iva Cruse, has hired a lawyer to lookinto the role public agencies, including the Department of Social Services andcity school system, might have played in her death.
Cruse said she contacted the Department of Social Services with concernsabout Ciara's care while Roberts was her guardian. The school system, whichalso contends it contacted the department with concerns about abuse, said thatthe girl never reported for classes at Patterson High School in September.
Roberts' attorney, Warren A. Brown, said that although Ciara's guardian hastold police she struck the girl the night before she died, the beating was notthe cause of the teen-ager's death. Brown also said Roberts did not starveCiara or keep her locked in a room for months.
"It was a great deal of sensationalism associated with it, but the evidencewill show that Ms. Roberts did not neglect this young girl to the extent thatshe passed away," Brown said yesterday.
"We're going to have witnesses who saw the girl out playing weeks beforethis, saw her on trips. They've been over there before. The girl was notlocked in a room, made to defecate in a hole in a wall."
Police have said that Ciara was kept in a room with a chained door and thatshe was forced to use a hole in a wall for a toilet.
Roberts, of the 1200 block of Gregor Way, faces a maximum penalty of lifeimprisonment if she is convicted of murder and 30 years if she is convicted ofchild abuse. She is being held in the city jail without bail and is scheduledfor arraignment on March 27 before Judge Wanda Keyes Heard.
Cruise, Ciara's maternal grandmother, believes that some agencies mighthave done more for the girl and has retained attorney A. Dwight Pettit topursue a possible lawsuit.
"We're trying to verify that Ms. Cruse made several calls to DSS andnothing was done," said Mitchell D. Treger, who works for Pettit. "We'retrying to verify that the ball was dropped."
Cruse said she is pursuing potential legal action because she believesagencies that should have been looking out for Ciara failed. Ciara's mother,Jackie Cruse, died in July and had relinquished custody of the girl in 1998.
"I'm hoping that [Pettit] can fix it so that what happened to Ciara willnever happen again to nobody else's child," Cruse said yesterday.
She said that she sought custody of Ciara but was refused by DSS.
Cruse, 54, acknowledged that nearly three decades ago, DSS took herchildren away from her, but she said that she had regained custody and wouldhave had no problems caring for Ciara.
Cruse said she had taken care of Ciara's brothers, Christopher and Cornell,off and on since 1998. Cruse also said she gave Roberts money for Ciara's careuntil the guardian refused to let her see the girl.
"If I could give Satrina Roberts $150 every two weeks for Ciara until shestopped letting us have any kind of contact with her, then what's wrong withme taking care of her all the way?" Cruse asked. She also said she hopes thatjustice is done in Roberts' criminal case.
"I know Ciara is resting, but I just want Satrina Roberts to get what shedeserves," Cruse said.
"Getting her off, or her spending