Baby death in Phila. investigated as homicide

January 3, 2011 9:53:23 AM PST
Philadelphia police confirm to Action News that homicide detectives are investigating the death of a baby.

The baby, 2-month-old Quasir Alexander, was living with his mother and 5 other siblings in room 739 at the Travelers Aid Family Shelter located on the grounds of the Kirkbride Center.

Alexander was found dead just before 6:00 a.m. on December 23rd.

His death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner's office on the 24th.

Shelter resident Jackie Townsend rushed to the room after one of the children came to her saying their brother had died.

She spoke exclusively with Action News.

"When I seen it, I said 'The baby looks like he was from, and I'm a black woman, look like he was one of them starving kids from Ethiopia,'" Townsend said.

Investigators tell Action News, the child died two days after caseworkers, working for an agency under contract to DHS, visited the child and his mother and reported everything was OK.

However, things apparently weren't OK because two days later the child ended up dying from what the medical examiners says was starvation, dehydration, and neglect.

Townsend says she can't understand how the caseworkers could not see that the child was in such bad shape.

"The rib cage, all this was sunk in. The rib cage all you see is the bones," Townsend said. "There's no way in the world that the case manager, if she was doing her job, didn't see that this baby needed some help."

Another resident of the shelter, who did not want to be identified, says the mother, identified as Tanya Williams, lef the facility a couple days ago, apparently feeling the heat of the investigation.

Investigators say they do know the location of Williams and DHS has taken custody of her other 5 children, including Quasir's twin brother who is in the hospital.

A source close to the investigation says the family was known to DHS and was receiving services from a contractor under contract to DHS, but there was no open investigation of neglect or abuse.

DHS came under scathing scrutiny after the death of 14-year-old Danieal Kelly who also was under the care of a service provider who, as it turns out, was falsifying paperwork to indicate home visits that were never made.

Kelly's starved body was found August 4, 2006.

DHS' new commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose vowed to put in sweeping changes to prevent these things from happening again.

A spokesperson for DHS says Commissioner Ambrose is outraged and the case is under investigation.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says the homicide unit is thoroughly invovled in the case.

"All of this is part of the investigation, it'll be given to the district attorney who'll have to look into this a little deeper to find out who was responsible; obviously, a parent has some responsibility, but if there's anyone else responsible, we'll certainly find out during the course of the investigation," Ramsey said.

Mayor Michael Nutter said, "State Law prohibits me from discussing any of the details of the case, but I'm very, very saddened, we're all saddened that something like this has happened.."

The Kirkbride Center rents out 40,000 square feet of building to Travelers Aid, which takes people who have recently become homeless referred by Philadelphia Office of Supportive Housing.

Food is free of charge to all residents and formula is free and available to all babies.