Dad KASEEM BRUNO is charged with 1st-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and neglect, aiding and abetting, and child abuse. He is "suspected" of strangling his 2-month-old daughter with an extension cord. Yet another case where Daddy was "frustrated" by a crying baby. Is it any surprise that Dad has a history of violence against the mother too?
Father suspected in child's death denied bail
By CORLISS SMITHEN
Published: May 13, 2010
ST. THOMAS — A father who is suspected of killing his two-month-old daughter by strangling her with an extension cord will have to sit in jail until his case goes to trial.
After a detention hearing Wednesday, V.I. Superior Court Judge James Carroll III ruled that Kaseem Bruno, 19, of Bovoni, who is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and neglect, aiding and abetting and child abuse, should be detained.
In making his case as to why Bruno should be kept behind bars, Assistant Attorney General Michael Motylinski called Detective Cherese Thomas to the witness stand to testify to the circumstances that led to Bruno’s arrest in the April 18 death of Kalia Bruno.
Thomas, the lead detective in the case, said police officers were dispatched to Bovoni Housing Community on April 18 and met with the infant’s mother, Lilia Roumo, after receiving a call about a dead infant.
“When I arrived, I was met by the EMTs. I made contact with Lilia Roumo, who was in the ambulance where the deceased baby was. In the ambulance, Roumo didn’t speak very much. We took her in our police vehicle and transported her to the police station,” Thomas said.
Thomas said police inspected the baby and saw some suspicious markings around the baby’s neck, which led police to believe foul play was involved and police advised Roumo of her rights, which she waived and gave a statement.
“She stated that on the Sunday about 5 a.m., she awoke, fed the baby, burped her, played with her for a few minutes and put her back to bed. She awoke at 7 a.m. to give the baby a next feeding. The baby wasn’t breathing. She awoke Bruno and told him the baby wasn’t breathing. They took turns performing CPR for two hours. She noticed the baby was turning purple and turning stiff and cold. They decided to take the baby to Bruno’s mother’s house nearby. When the mother came to the door, she immediately knew something was wrong and when she asked what was wrong, Roumo said the baby was dead,” Thomas said.
Roumo also explained that when the baby was discovered not breathing, they did not call 911 because there no phone in the apartment. Roumo also is indicated that during the time they were giving CPR to the baby, they both ate breakfast and it was not until after 9 o’clock that they went to Bruno’s mother’s apartment, according to Thomas.
“Bruno had a prepaid phone, but he had no minutes on the phone. They did not seek the neighbors’ help because they did not get along with the neighbors,” Thomas said.
After giving the statement to police, Roumo was referred to the V.I. Police Department’s Victims’ Advocate, who indicated that Roumo had some suicidal tendencies, and she was taken to Schneider Hospital to the mental unit and was placed under suicide watch, Thomas said.
“I heard Lambertis ask her about some markings on her body and she told Lambertis she attempted to cut her wrists,” Thomas said.
Two days after Roumo gave that statement, she gave another report to Sgt. Roslyn Bedminster, who already was investigating an unrelated third-degree assault against Bruno, in which Bruno was accused of assaulting Roumo. The assault allegedly occurred days before the child’s death, according to Thomas.
“Roumo had contacted Sgt. Bedminster and indicated she wanted to provide a statement, stating that on Friday, April 15, going into the wee hours of Saturday morning, baby Kalia was crying and Roumo picked up the baby in an effort to quiet her down,” Thomas testified, reciting Roumo’s statement to Bedminster. “Bruno took the baby from her, placed her on a bed, took an extension cord from a box fan and wrapped the cord around the baby’s neck twice until she was quiet. He was trying to avoid being served court documents. Kalia’s eyes began to roll up in the back of her head and Roumo asked Bruno to stop. When she fed the baby at 5 a.m., the baby had difficulty swallowing. She said every time the child moved its neck, it would show signs of discomfort. She said she put Vaseline on the baby’s neck for the bruises. Roumo indicated that Bruno also struck her with the extension cord the day the child was killed.”
Under cross-examination from territorial public defender, Julie Todman, Thomas said she was aware of a statement made by Bruno in the presence of crime scene technician Debra Mahoney in which Bruno blamed Roumo for killing the baby.
“Bruno spontaneously uttered that Roumo had killed the child,” Thomas said
Based on Thomas’ testimony and the charges detailed in the indictment, Motylinski reasoned that the proof is evident and the presumption great to prove first-degree murder and reiterated his position that Bruno should be held without bail.
“We have two people in a room, we know something happened, Kalia is dead due to strangulation. The preliminary autopsy report shows clearly something was placed around her neck and the detective herself observed the bruises. We have the statement of Roumo, which all fits together. All of her problems have been tied to Bruno, so everything stems from the abuse she suffered at Bruno’s hands and he took out his anger on the baby. There’s a very great presumption that Bruno beat Roumo and that night, he did have a reason to keep the baby quiet because he didn’t want to be served court documents, and he did quiet the baby,” Motylinski said.
Todman argued that the government would have difficulty proving that her client committed first-degree murder, which is described as willful, deliberate and premeditated.
“We know after the act was allegedly done, the child was alive for at least a 24-hour period. Deliberation requires planning. By the testimony, the government may be able to prove second-degree murder, but they would have difficulty proving first-degree. Not only was the child strangled, which led to its death, but was it deliberate or premeditated? The government has not shown that this was some sort of premeditated killing,” Todman said.
In announcing his decision after a five-minute break, Carroll opposed Todman’s line of reasoning.
“Essentially, we have the testimony of an eyewitness who saw what happened to the child. In looking at first-degree murder and willfulness and premeditation, there doesn’t have to be a long period of time; willfulness and premeditation could be done in a second’s time. I find such conduct to be what it is: unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. To put a cord around a baby’s neck for the reasons stated, it seems to be willful. Based on the testimony of the eyewitness, it seems to be clear and convincing evidence in first-degree murder,” Carroll said.
Carroll also determined that Roumo’s statement is reliable because she gave the statement without considering its ramifications.
“She’s admitting that she took time when the baby was in distress before taking it to the hospital,” he ruled. “Initially, she exculpated herself from the crime and later sought out the police to give a statement. The whole case is a very sad one. I see before me a young man, 19 years of age, who’s had an eighth-grade education and even though he may not have had an education that would have allowed him to make wise decisions, I have to hold adults responsible. This is unacceptable. You can’t strangle a baby because she’s crying too much. I find there’s clear and convincing evidence for first-degree murder. I find that the proof is evident, the presumption great and the evidence given is reliable. I will detain Bruno until trial,”
Roumo also faces involuntary manslaughter, aggravated child abuse and neglect, failing to report a felony and accessory after the fact in connection with the infant’s death. At an advice-of-rights hearing Monday, V.I. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Alan Smith reduced Roumo’s $250,000 bail to $25,000 and allowed her to be released on the posting of 10 percent.
Roumo and Bruno will be arraigned on the charges on Thursday in separate V.I. Superior Court hearings.