A 29-year-old Indian woman will serve 14 years in prison in the US after she was found guilty for the death of a child in her care.
Kinjal Patel pleaded under the Alford doctrine, in which a defendant does not admit guilty but concedes that there is enough evidence for conviction at trial. Patel was found guilty by court in the death of 19-month old Athiyan Sivakumar, who died last year in January, three days after he sustained injuries while under her care.
Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford will impose a 20-year sentence in October, to be suspended after Patel serves 14 years. She will also serve five years’ probation. Patel’s attorney Kevin Smith said that since she is not a US citizen, she will be deported to India after she completes her sentence.
The office of the chief state medical examiner ruled the child s death a homicide and that the cause of death was blunt-force trauma with multiple sites of impact. Sivakumar’s parents also face charges in the case. His father Sivakumar Mani, 35, and mother Thenmozhi Rajendran, 26, have been charged with risk of injury to a child and interfering with an officer. They were charged because they allegedly lied to detectives about what happened the night their boy was injured.
Rajendran allegedly told police initially that she was taking care of her son when she noticed his breathing was abnormal. Then she reportedly said he had fallen while reaching for a doorknob. Mani backed up his wife’s “abnormal breathing” story. Smith said there was “zero intent” on her part to harm the child. “This was a horrible, tragic accident, probably due to her lack of experience with small children and not knowing how to handle these types of situations,” Smith said. “The physical evidence (if the case had come to trial) would not show a plan or thought on her part. It was just split-second reactions with unintended but tragic consequences,” he said. Smith said Patel accepted the plea proposal because “the risk of conviction at trial was great. The probability of a high sentence (more than with the plea deal) was overwhelming.”
Police have said the toddler had been brought to the hospital in December 2013 also because of facial injuries. Hospital officials notified staffers at the state Department of Children and Families that it was a possible risk-of-injury case. A subsequent DCF investigation led to the finding the boy had also been under Patel’s care on that day in December.
His parents then signed an agreement with DCF barring them from using baby sitters until DCF assessed the December incident. Patel’s lawyer said she could have received a sentence of up to 30 years if she had gone to trial and convicted on first-degree manslaughter and risk of injury.