Daycare worker saw signs of abuse

23-year-old Sherita McNeil of Garner

August 12, 2010 3:51:15 PM PDT
A daycare worker offered emotional testimony Thursday in the trial of a Garner mother accused of killing her 19-month-old son and stuffing his body in a plastic tub hidden in her closet.

Sherita McNeil was charged in November 2008 when Devarion Gross' body was discovered at McNeil's Garner townhouse.

Thursday, witnesses described Gross as a toddler who liked to have fun and play just like all kids.

"He was very smart. He liked to play. He was a good kid," said daycare worker Kathy Santiago-Williams. "He'd cuddle you and tell you he loved you and stuff."

Santiago-Williams said she became concerned about the boys safety when she witnessed injuries.

"He came in on a Monday, and his bottom lip was busted at that time," she testified. "I saw the busted lip, and then the following Monday, his top lip was busted."

Then, she noticed Gross losing weight - which she called unusual.

"He loved to eat. That's one thing he loved to do. And he let you know when he was hungry," she said.

And finally, on a hot day when Gross's shirt got wet, she witnessed a shocking sight.

"When I took it off, I noticed that he had a mark on his back and the mark was a belt, was made by a belt, and I knew because I wear the same type belt, so I could tell," she said.

Also on the stand Thursday was Garner detective Christina Pappas. She testified about discovering the boy's body.

"I'm familiar with the smell of death and decomposing bodies," she said "And when I was walking up the stairs, it hit me like a wall."

Jurors were shown the plastic tub that Gross's body was left in.

"I could see that there was a head, and it appeared there was a small child that was curled up in the fetal position on its right side, where you could see its arm and then its leg," said Pappas.

Santiago-Williams testified she reported the abuse she witnesses to her superiors. She wondered aloud on the stand Thursday if she could have prevented the death if she had it to do over.

"I would have reported it myself [to social services]" she said.

The trial is scheduled to continue Friday.

If convicted, McNeil could spend the rest of her life in prison.

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