Babysitter's Sleeping Bag Game Turns Fatal

Yalines Torres, 25, of Hartford, Conn., is escorted into court by state judicial marshals for arraignment in Hartford, Conn., Jan. 17, 2008. Torres was arraigned on a murder charge and ordered held on $1 million bond in connection with the death Jan. 11, 2008 of 19-month-old Elijah Gasque of Hartford.
AP Photo/Bob Child
Hardworking mom Julie Adkins-Gasque never worried when her 19-month-old son, Elijah, sported a fresh bruise while she picked him up at her baby sitter's apartment.

He just played rough with her sitter's son, she thought. And she trusted the sitter, 25-year-old Yalines Torres, who was a friend with whom she sometimes shopped.

On Thursday, Askins-Gasque buried her battered son in a frozen grave while Torres faced a judge in nearby Hartford to answer to a murder charge.

"What, did he cry too much for her? I don't know why she would do it," Adkins-Gasque said, after joining several dozen friends and family members for Elijah's funeral. "I'm angry. I'm confused. I'm blank sometimes. I miss my son."

Hartford Superior Judge Carl Taylor set Torres' bond at $1 million on Thursday and granted defense attorney Claudia Jones' request to continue a suicide watch at the jail.

Torres was initially charged with risk of injury to a minor and reckless endangerment. CBS News Affiliate WFSB reports that the public defender had initially been able to secure Torres' release Tuesday on a bond of $200,000. She was then re-arrested late Wednesday and charged with capitol felony, a murder charge that carries a possible death penalty or life in prison without parole if she is convicted.

Torres, who was shackled and dressed in jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt, didn't speak during her court appearance Thursday, but was overcome with emotion and had to sit down.

Jones declined comment after the hearing. A family friend, Mayra Velazquez of Hartford, said she didn't believe Torres was guilty.

"She's a good mother," Velazquez said through an interpreter. "She takes care of her kids."

Police said Elijah was fatally injured Friday evening when Torres swung him around in a sleeping bag and his head smacked a door frame. She called Adkins-Gasque at work and told her that Elijah had a seizure and collapsed during a game of ring-around-the-rosy, according to a police report.

When police arrived, Torres made conflicting statements to them about the injury, saying that her own 2-year-old son struck him in the head with a xylophone toy and that Elijah may have been hurt when he fell after she twirled him in the air and set him down.

But after more questioning, police said Torres said Elijah was injured in a game in which she bundled him in a closed sleeping bag and she jogged through her apartment with the bag slung over her shoulder.

Going through one doorway, Torres lost her balance and the bag struck the door frame twice, police said. When she opened the bag, Elijah was pale and not breathing, according to the police report.

He died at a hospital the next day. A police report noted Elijah had a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain, and the medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide.

Police said Torres admitted that she had initially lied about the boy's injuries because people would think she intentionally hurt the boy if she told the truth.

Adkins-Gasque said Thursday she met Torres two months ago through a friend and she watched Elijah as much as five days a week. WFSB spoke to Adkins-Gasque's mother who told the reporter that Torres was paid $2 an hour to watch Elijah. Adkins-Gasque noticed fresh bruises four or five times, but Torres explained that Elijah fought with her son over a toy.

"I thought she was letting her son get out of control," she said. "I thought that's just the way it was."

Adkins-Gasque said she wasn't suspicious until last Thursday, when Elijah came home with a fresh bruise on his forehead. But she left her son with Torres on Friday because she had to work. That night, Elijah was fatally injured.

She's happy that her former friend faces a murder charge.

"It lightens my heart a little bit," Adkins-Gasque said. "I feel that is fair. Hopefully that's the way it will stay, that she will be charged to the fullest extent of the law."