Police have arrested a Gretna woman after her 3-year-old nephew died from brain injuries suffered while in her care.
Ardella Lorio, 34, told investigators that Jamell Brown fell to the ground and injured his head after she slammed an iron gate from which he was hanging.
But Gretna Deputy Police Chief Anthony Christiana Jr. said Thursday that police are skeptical of Lorio’s account of how the boy was injured.
“There were indications in the interview with the suspect and other physical evidence that doesn’t correspond to the child hanging on the gate and falling,” he said.
Gretna police said that when Lorio and Solomon Nixon, Brown’s uncle, took him to Ochsner Medical Center’s West Bank campus on Monday night, the child had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.
Ochsner staff were able to stabilize his condition and contacted police because of the suspicious nature of his injuries, but Lorio and Nixon left before the officers arrived.
Police said they found Lorio the next day at a relative’s house in Algiers, and she later gave them her account of slamming the gate.
Nixon was found after he returned to the hospital with the child’s father. Christiana said investigators don’t believe he was present when the child was injured.
Brown was transferred to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, where doctors worked to relieve the pressure on his brain. He had suffered a subdermal hematoma — bleeding of the brain that causes pressure and swelling — as well as severe brain shifts. By Wednesday night, doctors decided there was nothing more they could do, and he was taken off life support.
Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovitch said a forensic pathologist and a neuropathologist will examine the child’s brain to see if there are any signs of chronic trauma in addition to the acute trauma that caused his death. Cvitanovitch said this will take several weeks.
Lorio was booked on a count of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile and was taken to the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center. Cruelty to a juvenile can be prosecuted as second-degree murder if a child dies. It is punishable by life in prison.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.