Father charged with murder; infant's body believed burned

THE BALTIMORE SUN

City homicide detectives have charged the father of a missing 2-month-old girl, who was the subject of a statewide "Amber Alert," with first-degree murder although the child's body has not been found, a police spokesman said.

Kenneth Jenkins, 20, of the 2500 block of Francis St., was being held at the Central Booking and Intake Center pending a bail hearing today in District Court, said Officer Troy Harris, the spokesman.

Harris declined to reveal the evidence that led police to charge him last night.

Yesterday, police had rummaged piece by piece through the South Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems incinerator, a 900-ton trash repository, searching for the tiny body of A'Shia Monique Jenkins.

Last night, after calling off the search, police said they believed her body had been incinerated. Authorities think she was thrown into a neighborhood garbage bin after dying in her father's care.

On Tuesday, officials had blanketed the state with its first use of the Amber Alert, an all-points-bulletin program that asks the public for help in finding a missing child.

But detectives say the alert was based on a false story given to them by Jenkins, who said she was abducted in a robbery.

"My heart is hurting," the child's mother, Lakeisha Ballou, 19, said in an interview at her West Baltimore home.

After Jenkins was charged, police said, at least one child was taken from Ballou's home into the custody of social services officials.

Detectives were led to the incinerator, off Russell Street and Interstate 95, after intense questioning of the father.

Jenkins first failed a polygraph test and later told detectives that he had found his daughter dead Tuesday morning in her bed, police sources said. He told detectives he wrapped A'shia's body in a pink blanket, put her in a box and threw her into a trash bin near his West Baltimore house, sources said.

About 3:30 a.m. yesterday, he led detectives to the bin in the 900 block of Pennsylvania Ave., but crews had emptied it two hours earlier, police said.

Police said they were continuing to investigate the case and were closely reviewing the father's statements last night. Jenkins was initially held on a warrant for violating his probation in a 2001 carjacking case.

The girl's mother said she believed her boyfriend's original story but began having doubts after she got a call from him about 4 a.m. yesterday.

Ballou said Jenkins was calling her from the police homicide division and was, amid sobs, speaking unintelligibly. "I knew my baby was gone," Ballou said.

She rushed to the city's homicide office on the fifth floor of police headquarters, where detectives confirmed her fears - they believed the baby had died, and they were searching the incinerator for her body.

Later, Ballou said, she met with Jenkins: "He was crying and told me he was sorry."

Jenkins told her that he fed A'shia and her twin sister, Aliah, about 1:30 a.m.

Ballou said Jenkins told her he awoke about 6 a.m. Tuesday to find A'shia "blue in the face." He said he wrapped the child's lifeless body in a blanket and walked several blocks to the trash bin, Ballou said.

"I am angry about the way he did it," Ballou said. "To put her in a box and in a trash can and walk away? Why wait that long to tell us where he put her?"

Trusted in past

Ballou said she has always trusted Jenkins with her daughters. A week ago, Jenkins cared for the girls for several days in a row, and the twins returned home fine.

"I never thought he would harm his own babies," she said.

The twins were staying with Jenkins so Ballou could more easily make an early appointment at a social service agency to pick up day-care vouchers, said Ballou, who said the vouchers would allow her to attend classes to earn a high school diploma and a nursing certificate.

About 6:30 a.m., Ballou said, Jenkins called and said he had run out of milk and needed money. She agreed to meet him at Edmondson and Fulton avenues.

Accuses cab driver

When he arrived, Jenkins had Aliah but was missing A'shia. He said that for $5 he had hired an unlicensed cab, a "hack," to drive him to meet her, Ballou.

But after only a few blocks, the driver pulled over, took out a gun and demanded money, Jenkins told her. He said he managed to get Aliah out of the car but could not retrieve A'shia before the driver took off.

Jenkins told police the same abduction story, and soon authorities across the state were issuing Maryland's first use of the Amber Alert highway system to notify motorists about an abducted child. Across the state, highway signs read:

AMBER ALERT CALL 911

WHITE HONDA ACCORD

PARTIAL MD TAG JFK

The message left many drivers confused on the same day that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network was again encouraging attacks on U.S. interests. By early yesterday, police had rescinded the Amber Alert after Jenkins changed his story about A'shia's disappearance, sources said.

Ballou said Jenkins' original version of the events is ridiculous. "He had $5 for a hack, why not just get the milk?" she said.

Other family members said they were suspicious of the story the moment they heard it.

"None of it added up to me," said Ballou's mother, Brenda Bullock, 40.

Ballou said she met Jenkins three years ago when they both were attending a job-training program. She had dropped out of school in the eighth grade and was selling drugs on the street to make a living, she said. Her mother forced her to leave the drug trade, hoping she would learn reputable job skills.

At first, Ballou and Jenkins went to movies and dinners. Soon, the relationship grew more serious, she said. She had her first son, Travon, with Jenkins a little more than a year ago. "He was a good father when he could help me," Ballou said. "If I needed Pampers, he would find a way to do it."

But the relationship could also be difficult, and Jenkins was getting into trouble with police, including for an alleged assault of Ballou, court records show.

Probation violations

In October 2001, Jenkins was found guilty of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in an alleged carjacking a month earlier. He was sentenced to two years of probation, according to court records. In September, probation officials reported he was not seeing his probation agent, not attending school or working, and did not give his agent a correct address. A judge issued a warrant for his arrest on probation violations in November.

Four months after the alleged carjacking, Jenkins was charged with assaulting Ballou. An officer saw Jenkins grab Ballou and throw her out of the house.

But Ballou said she did not cooperate with authorities. Prosecutors dropped the case, court records show. "I just wanted him to leave me alone," she said.

Staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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