South China Morning Post, February 12, 2018
His eight-month-old girl had been happy and healthy when he had left his Maryland house hours earlier but when he rushed back home, his baby was lifeless. Her feet were cold. Her arms went limp. Milk poured out of her nose and mouth.
“What did you do?! What happened?!” Salubi recalled screaming to the nanny before trying to suck out the liquid streaming from his child’s face.
“You left home with a live baby and come home with a dead baby,” Salubi said in court recalling the day his daughter Enita died. “It’s not something I can forget.”
Salubi shook with anger and grief as he testified in the trial of Oluremi Adeleye, who prosecutors accused of fatally force-feeding Enita because the crying child roused the nanny from a nap.
Adeleye, 73, was convicted Monday after a judge found her guilty of child abuse and second-degree murder in Prince George’s County [Maryland] Circuit Court. Adeleye declined a trial by jury and opted to have a judge weigh her case.
Over a week of testimony, prosecutors argued that Adeleye unscrewed the lid of Enita’s baby bottle and poured nearly eight ounces (236ml) of milk down the child’s throat in less than 30 seconds, essentially drowning the girl.
But when she testified in her own defence, Adeleye testified she didn’t mean to hurt the child. Adeleye said she was merely trying to ensure the baby didn’t go hungry and contended it is customary in her home country of Nigeria to force children to eat.
“I did what I needed to do to make sure the baby had food in the stomach,” the mother of five and grandmother of 10 said through a Yoruba translator.
The trial took place in the week Enita Salubi would have turned three years old. Arguments centred on whether Adeleye acted cruelly and knew that forcing the child to eat in the manner she did would result in the girl’s death.
The girl died on October 24, 2016, while in Adeleye’s care, with the incident captured on video by a nanny cam.
Footage aired in court showed the baby bouncing in a walker, pulling on the nanny’s dress and patting her leg as the nanny was lying on a couch. After a few minutes, Adeleye gets up from the couch and tries to give Enita a bottle, the footage showed.
Eventually, Adeleye removes the nipple and lid from the bottle and appears to pour the milk into the baby’s mouth as the baby squirms. The 8-ounce bottle, which was nearly full, was drained in less than half a minute, testimony showed. The baby continued to wriggle in Adeleye’s arms the video showed, before she falls to the ground. Adeleye picks up the child up and attempts to give her more liquid from a second bottle, according to the video.
“She was getting her to shut up by pouring down the milk,” Prince George’s County Assistant State’s Attorney Artemis Moutsatsos said at trial.
The video eventually shows Enita going limp like a rag doll with Adeleye rocking the baby for minutes trying to make her alert and wiping the girl’s face as her head flops back and forth.
Adeleye and her lawyers said she was “cup feeding” the child. Her defence described cup feeding as placing one’s hand to a child’s mouth and pouring liquid into the hand to give the child food when they don’t want to eat but need feeding.
The defence called relatives of Adeleye as witnesses, who testified she had cared for their children with no problems and that “cup feeding” was common in Nigeria.
Adeleye’s attorney Douglas Wood argued that Enita’s death was a “tragic accident” but there was no criminal conduct.
Wood argued that this was not a case of child abuse, which legally requires a finding that “cruel or inhumane treatment or malicious acts” occurred. Woods said his client was merely trying to feed the girl.
“All she wanted to do was feed the child,” Wood said. “She wanted to make sure the baby was healthy and the baby was well fed.”