Reports of missing children sometimes turn out to be bogus. In upstate New York, Albany County authorities say that they received a report from a 19-year-old female that her five-year-old cousin was taken forcefully from her by two masked men on Dec. 18. Police deemed the report false after a K-9 unit found the child dead under a nearby pile of snow. The woman's arrest for second degree murder may carry allegations of some kind of domestic violence inflicted on the boy to cause his death.
The suspect's parents were reportedly the legal guardian of the boy and his two siblings since September. The boys' natural parents are apparently separated. The mother is said to be living elsewhere in New York and the father in Massachusetts.
Authorities report the child was strangled and also suffered blunt trauma force to the head. The engagement of defense counsel early in an investigation can be extremely helpful. Counsel will be able to focus on learning and investigating every detail of the background, the critical facts, and the relationship of the suspect with the boy.
Regardless of the cause of death, defense counsel must still determine the suspect's degree and nature of involvement. If she was instrumental in it, then it must still be proved that she acted with criminal intent to harm or kill. In such situations, criminal intent could possibly be difficult to establish. Death could have resulted from "roughhouse" or other reckless contact not involving criminal intent. Additionally, the suspect's mental health at the time may have precluded her from forming criminal intent.
Therefore, the possibility that the suspect acted without criminal intent is an important inquiry for the defense, based on the given facts at this time. Investigators sometimes make premature conclusions of criminality based on inaccurate or incomplete facts, such as construing domestic violence from something that does not rise to that level. However, in New York she enjoys the presumption of innocence, and any conclusions must be made only upon the basis of strong, credible evidence that can support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Source: CBS News, "Arrest in case of upstate New York boy, 5-year-old Kenneth White, found dead", Dec. 19, 2014