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Mom Convicted in Toddler’s Death

October 23, 2000 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ A woman accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter two decades ago and keeping the mummified body hidden in a bedroom closet was convicted Monday of murder.

Madeline Carmichael, 61, was found guilty for the slaying of Latanisha Carmichael in November 1979.

Justice Anne Feldman reached the verdict in the non-jury trial in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

The mother, now confined to a wheelchair because of failing health, was acquitted of intentional murder but convicted of a second-degree murder count that cited ``depraved indifference to human life.″ She faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life.

Carmichael’s son and co-defendant, Gregory Carmichael, 38, was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide. He faces a maximum of 1 1/2 to 4 years.

Sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 1.

``We think that after 20 years justice has been done,″ prosecutor Barry Schreiber said.

Madeline Carmichael’s attorney, Joshua Horowitz, said his client was ``very disappointed in the verdict.″ The defense sought to portray the mother as a strict but caring single parent whose only offense was concealing a tragic, accidental death that haunted her.

But Schreiber called the death of Latanisha ``a bizarre and unthinkable murder″ that became ``a deep, dark family secret.″

Carmichael’s older daughter, Sabrina, 30, testified that as a child she witnessed her abusive mother and older brother beat Latanisha to death in their Brooklyn apartment, then stuck the child in a trunk the mother kept stashed in a closet. Gregory allegedly told police the mother was enraged because the victim had vomited.

Sabrina was allegedly beaten into decades-long silence by the defendants; outsiders were told that Latanisha was in foster care or living ``down south.″

Prosecutors said that the crime might have remained unsolved if not for Latanisha’s surviving twin, Andre. Andre testified that he had no memory of his twin until age 8, when an aunt asked him about her. He asked his mother if it was true. Her response, he said, was to beat him.

Last year, Andre confronted Sabrina about his twin’s whereabouts, and she responded, ``She was murdered.″ He persuaded her to go to police.

In the mother’s apartment, they came across the trunk, which had been wrapped in 12 plastic bags stuffed with mothballs, put in a second, larger trunk filled with baking soda and then locked in a closet fitted with air fresheners. Inside were Latanisha’s skeletal remains.