Baltimore couple faces 40 years in prison for 2017 death of baby

A Baltimore couple whose 5-month-old son died of a brain injury pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in the baby’s death, the state’s attorney’s office announced Friday.

Angelique Petty and Perry Nelson-Johnson each face up to 40 years in prison for their roles in the death of Emmanuel Johnson.

“The circumstances surrounding this poor baby’s death are appalling,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement. “As a mother of two young children, I could not imagine ignoring the pain and suffering of my own infant child. The acts of this mother and father were despicable; and fortunately because of this conviction, they will not be able to inflict or ignore the pain of another child.”

The baby died June 9, 2017, at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Nelson-Johnson called 911 early that morning to say that the child had rolled out of bed, fell onto the cement floor and bumped his head the prior evening, the state’s attorney’s office wrote in a news release.

Nelson-Johnson said the baby acted normally before going to sleep, and that his mother wasn’t home when the fall happened. Petty echoed his statements, and said she fed the baby and gave him pain medicine after the fall, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Their stories were debunked by the Office of the Medical Examiner, who found that the infant had healing injuries on his brain, indicating that he was assaulted days before he died. Some of the injuries were consistent with the boy having been hit with a cane on the side of his head, the news release states.

The medical examiner determined that he died of “a severe blow to his head that caused a displaced fracture of his skull and led to swelling and bleeding on the brain, which would have rendered him unconscious shortly after they occurred.”

Nelson-Johnson uses a cane to walk, as a result of a gunshot wound years earlier. Petty eventually told police that her son was injured June 6. She said she told Nelson-Johnson to take the baby to the hospital, according to the state’s attorney’s office, but he refused. Petty did not alert anyone that her son needed help and was no longer active or eating, the news release states.

“Parents and caregivers have a legal duty to seek help for seriously injured children and one call for medical help could have saved Emmanuel’s life,” Special Victims Unit Chief Anne Colt Leitess said in a statement.

Nelson-Johnson continued to tell police that the child’s injuries were the result of a fall, according to the news release.

The sentencings are scheduled for Oct. 1 and Oct. 2.

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