Saturday, June 2, 2007

DA to file sexual abuse charge against Manos

Dryden woman also charged with second-degree murder in death of 2-year-old niece
By Raymond Drumsta
Journal Staff

DRYDEN — Marie A. Manos now stands accused of murdering her 2-year-old niece, Grace Manos, while committing the crime of sexual abuse against her, Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson and state police announced Friday.

Manos, 34, was charged with second-degree murder, a class A-I Felony, in Dryden Town Court on Thursday. She is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charge in Dryden Town Court on Tuesday.
If convicted, Manos faces 25 years to life in prison.

Manos was originally arrested and charged with first-degree assault the night of May 15 after she allegedly held Grace under water in a bathtub while she was babysitting the girl at her apartment on Ringwood Road in Dryden.
Grace died the following afternoon at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, and a day later, Wilkinson announced that she was considering possible homicide charges against Manos.

In the wake of Grace's death, Wilkinson said that Manos had confessed on videotape, and that she was waiting for more evidence, including a post-mortem examination by the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office, before charging Manos further.

In a statement Friday, Wilkinson and state police revealed preliminary details of the post-mortem examination.

“Preliminary information recently provided by the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's office reveals that Grace Manos died as a direct result of injuries, which include asphyxia, blunt force trauma, drowning, and sexual abuse,” the statement said.

There was trauma from the sexual abuse, Wilkinson said, which was a “contributing factor” in the child's death, Wilkinson said. She would not comment on the possibility that Manos was bathing Grace to cover up the crime, though she said other charges would be presented to the grand jury.

“I laid this charge at this time because I felt the state of the evidence warranted it,” Wilkinson said. “Second-degree felony murder is the highest charge supported by the evidence. The prosecution's theory is that Manos was committing the crime of aggravated sexual abuse, and in the course of the crime, Manos inflicted the injuries that were the cause of Grace's death, she added.

Wilkinson and state police said Manos, who was unemployed, had been babysitting Grace about two times a week for the last two months, they said. No one else was in the residence at the time of the incident, they said.

Jennifer Manos, Grace's mother, came to pick up her daughter the afternoon of May 15, saw Grace's condition and made the first of two calls to 911, Wilkinson said.

In the first call to 911, at about 4:46 p.m., Jennifer Manos reported that Grace had fallen down, was conscious but not coherent, and was breathing, police said.

“It was further reported that (Grace) had swallowed a large amount of water while taking a bath,” police said.

The second call to 911, made by Marie Manos at about 4:53 p.m., reported that Grace was barely breathing, they added.

Two state troopers, Quentin Giles and Michael Burling, arrived at the scene and found Grace outside the residence, police said. Grace was unresponsive and not breathing, they added.

The Dryden Ambulance Squad arrived soon after, continued life-saving efforts and transported her to Cayuga Medical Center, police said. There, Grace's medical condition was stabilized and she was flown to Upstate Medical Center, they added.

Back at the scene, an investigation was begun immediately, police said. During the investigation, Marie Manos told investigators that Grace had been taking a bath, and that she had left Grace briefly unattended, police said.

Marie told investigators that when she returned, she found Grace submerged in the bath water, police said.

The investigation by police and the district attorney led them to believe, however, that Marie Manos intentionally held the child's head under water while she was in the bathtub, police said, and Marie Manos was arrested.

“The prosecutor did not see fit to advise me of the new charge, so I can't comment on it,” said William B. Sellers IV, the assigned counsel for Manos. He said he is in contact with Manos' oncologist, however, and that he has to address the issue of Manos' health with the court.

“She has metastatic breast cancer,” he said. “It's in her liver. There is no cure.”

Manos was receiving chemo therapy, Sellers said, and the treatments, which prolonged her life, are now “long overdue.” The cancer is not in remission, he emphasized, but can be slowed by the treatments.

“She either has to be released on bail to get treatment, or she has to be taken, as a prisoner, for treatments,” he said.

Manos is being held in Tompkins County Jail without bail. The investigation in ongoing, state police and Wilkinson said, and anyone with information they believe could help the case is encouraged to call the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation at (607)347-4440. All calls will be kept confidential, they added.

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