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Mother Accused Of Killing Baby Cries Like Baby In Court

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Wearing a red, "high profile" prisoner jumpsuit, Catalina Bruno wept uncontrollably in a Miami-Dade Courtroom Wednesday.

She is charged with manslaughter after leaving her 11 month-old son, Bryan, in her car in the family driveway earlier this month.  The boy died in the baking car.  Would-be rescuers say he had an internal body temperature of 109 degrees.

Bruno's attorney, Lonnie Richardson, told the judge his client "is in crisis," and in desperate need of mental health care.

"I want her to be safe, I want her to be stable, I want her to understand what's going on and to actually cope with this," Richardson told reporters following the hearing.

Richardson said Bruno was suffering from post-partum depression, which caused her to behave erratically—including the lapse in which she allegedly killed her son.

Circuit Judge Samantha Ruiz-Cohen granted the request that Bruno receive psychological care, but cautioned that it could not be used in connection with any legal challenge to her competency to face the manslaughter charge against her.

Bruno's attorney also asked that her surviving children be allowed to visit her in jail.  The judge said she would consider the request.

Wednesday's court hearing followed a Tuesday night claim by fired Department of Children and Families caseworker Shani Smith that she is being used as the fall person in the case of the infant child who died in the hot car.

Smith was fired by DCF after the agency alleged she lied about ordering that Bruno undergo a substance abuse evaluation. The mother appeared on DCF's radar after an incident in November of 2012 in which she was found passed out in her car, the baby wedged between the front seats.

"I'm a scapegoat," Smith told CBS4 News.  "They've got to point the finger at somebody."

Smith insists she ordered a substance abuse evaluation for Bruno and it was performed.

A spokesperson for DCF all but called Smith a liar, Wednesday.

"Neither DCF nor the evaluating agency can find any record of any substance abuse evaluation ever being requested or conducted on this client (Bruno)," said DCF representative Gilda Ferradaz.

Smith claims DCF lost the records.

Her supervisor, Duray Smith (no relation), has been relieved of duty with pay due to unspecified "allegations of misconduct."  Smith signed off on Shani Smith's allegedly false representations that Catalina Bruno was referred for substance abuse evaluation.  CBS4 News efforts to reach Duray Smith have been unsuccessful.

Records reveal Duray Smith was involved in the infamous case of Nubia Barahona, an 11-year-old girl allegedly tortured and murdered by her foster parents in 2011.  Jorge and Carmen Barahona are charged with murdering Nubia and abusing her twin brother.

Duray Smith did not become involved in the Barahona case until after the alleged murder and abuse were revealed, and played a role as an investigator in assuring the safety of the remaining foster children who had been in the Barahona's care.  He was not promoted to supervisor until after the Barahona scandal was revealed.  In that case, DCF employees failed to respond to repeated expressions of concern by teachers and family regarding the children's' safety.


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