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Mother's awareness debated


Donna Davidson knew that her 18-month-old son functioned at the level of a much younger baby when she left him alone in a bathtub in March 1994, prosecution experts testified yesterday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

Ms. Davidson, 24, is being tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the death of her son, Marcus Price, who drowned March 23, 1994, in the bathtub of her home in Pioneer City.

Prosecutors are using the experts in an attempt to show that Ms. Davidson should have known better than to leave the boy alone when she went to answer a knock at the door and that she was grossly negligent when she did not return for at least 15 minutes.

Carroll McCabe, Ms. Davidson's lawyer, has argued that her client is "a person of limited intelligence" who didn't know any better.

Lynn Markowitz, who has worked with the county schools' Infants and Toddlers Program for 13 years, said yesterday Marcus suffered from "global development delay," which slowed the development of his social and cognitive skills.

She testified she met with Ms. Davidson and Marcus twice in February 1994 and told her that the boy's cognitive skills were at the level of a child 5 to 8 months old.

The boy's social skills were at the level of a baby 4 months to 6 months old, and his self-help skills were those of a child less than 6 months old, Ms. Markowitz said.

Marcus could not feed himself, walk or stand alone when specialists made their evaluation.

He responded to voices, but not his name. He was not shy with strangers, which is normal for infants, and could not distinguish his mother from other adults, she said.

"He did not look at her when I said 'Here comes Mommy' or 'Where's Mommy?' " Ms. Markowitz said. "Marcus demonstrated as a child who presented severe global development delays. My greatest concern was that he didn't discriminate strangers."

Ellen Zielinski, a case manager with the program, which diagnoses and assists children with development problems, said she visited the boy at a baby sitter's house Feb. 28, 1994.

In an hour, she said, she noticed that he had few language or interactive skills. His vocabulary was limited to "mama" and "dada," and he did not play with toys Ms. Zielinski brought with her, she said.

Ms. McCabe has contended that Marcus was not as develop mentally deficient as the prosecution claims.

She referred both witnesses to a September 1993 report by Dr. Harana Prasanna, the boy's pediatrician, in which the doctor indicated that Marcus recognized his mother, could feed himself a cracker and showed shyness with strangers at the age of 7 months.

Both witnesses said they were unaware of the doctor's reports.

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