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In wake of 9-year-old Shalom Guifarro's death, experts say trust your gut when contemplating filing abuse report

Brooklyn mother accused of killing daughter appears in court
Brooklyn mother accused of killing daughter appears in court 02:35

NEW YORK -- There have been new developments in the case of a mother accused of beating her young daughter to death.

Shemene Cato appeared in Brooklyn Criminal Court on Tuesday, and, as CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported, questions are turning to how signs of abuse went unreported.

Cato, 48, was arraigned on several charges, including murder and manslaughter, in the death of her 9-year-old Shalom Guifarro.

On Monday night, Cato was walked out of the 77th Precinct. Within the hour, prosecutors revealed she had an argument with her two daughters, Shalom and 13-year-old Wisdom, over a missing computer tablet, and allegedly beat them with a broomstick and an electrical cord for two hours. The 9-year-old crawled under the bed to hide and when her mother lifted the bed up, it dropped on her head.

Her 13-year-old sibling called 911. When police arrived, Shalom was unconscious with bite marks and bruising all over her body and was pronounced dead.

READ MORENYPD: Shalom Guifarro, 9, found dead with bite marks inside her family's apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Neighbors said they had seen Cato yelling at her kids, but never saw her beat them.

"She would be screaming at them, constantly, loud, until it startled you," restaurant owner Bart Hubbuch said. "It never made any sense to us because these girls were really small and well dressed, well mannered."

"Sometimes kids could be looking so put together, but you really don't know what's going on inside the household," another neighbor added.

Sources told CBS2 the mother is a city employee in the Human Resources Administration, and has no prior arrests. However, there were at least 10 prior domestic calls to the apartment, involving the mother's ex-boyfriend. None of the calls allegedly involved the children. Duddridge spoke to an expert on cruelty to children.

"It is very common where there is domestic violence for there to be child abuse. They're highly correlated," said Mary Pulido, executive director of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "Why wasn't there a report to ACS? Because there should have been something after 10 reports."

Neighbors said there's a social worker who lives in the building who they believed was aware of the mother's yelling They weren't sure whether they should report it.

"I tell parents, neighbors, concerned family members, you've gotta go with your gut. That's not normal behavior for a parent to constantly be screaming and screaming at a child," Pulido said. "Make the report and let the experts take it from there."

Cato was remanded and is due back in court on Friday. If found guilty, she could face up to life in prison. The 13-year-old daughter is being taken care of by Children's Services.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says there were 43,000 investigations into child abuse in New York City in 2021.

Child abuse experts say you can report any concerns anonymously to 1-800-342-3720.

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