Julie Adkins-Gasque never worried when she spotted a fresh bruise on her 1-year-old son. He just played rough with the baby sitter's son, she thought.
Yet there was the working mom on Thursday, burying her boy, Elijah Gasque, in a snow-covered rural cemetery and trying to understand how he wound up with a fractured skull in the care of the 25-year-old sitter, Yalines Torres.
"What, did he cry too much for her? I don't know why she would do it," Adkins-Gasque said after the funeral. "I'm angry. I'm confused. I'm blank sometimes. I miss my son."
A judge in Hartford arraigned Torres on a murder charge Thursday and set her bail at $1 million in the child's death last weekend. Torres told investigators his head smacked a door frame as she ran around with him slung over her shoulder in a sleeping bag.
Stunned by arrest
A family friend, Mayra Velazquez, said she was stunned by the arrest.
"She's a good mother," Velazquez said through an interpreter. "She takes care of her kids."
Adkins-Gasque, 23, said she met Torres two months ago through a friend and asked her to watch her son as much as five days a week. She noticed fresh bruises on him four or five times, but she said Torres told her Elijah sometimes fought with her son over toys.
"I thought she was letting her son get out of control," Adkins-Gasque said. "I thought that's just the way it was."
Last Thursday, Elijah came home with a fresh bruise on his forehead, his mother said. But she left her son with at Torres' apartment in Hartford again Friday because she had to work and couldn't find or afford a different sitter.
According to a police report, Torres called Adkins-Gasque at her job at a fast-food restaurant that night and told her that Elijah had a seizure and collapsed during a game of ring-around-the-rosy.
When officers arrived, Torres made conflicting statements to them about the injury, saying her 2-year-old son struck him in the head with a toy xylophone, and that Elijah may have been hurt when he fell after she twirled him in the air and set him down, the report states.
After more questioning, Torres said the child was injured in a game in which she bundled him in a sleeping bag and jogged through her apartment with the bag slung over her shoulder, according to the report.
Going through one doorway, Torres lost her balance and the bag struck the door frame twice, police said.
She told investigators she heard the boy whimper.
When she opened the bag, the boy was pale and not breathing, the report states.
The child died at a hospital the next day. The police report noted Elijah had a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain, and the medical examiner's office ruled the death a homicide.
Torres admitted she had initially lied about the boy's injuries because she was afraid people would think she intentionally hurt the boy if she told the truth, police said.
Death penalty, life in prison possible
She was initially charged with risk of injury to a minor and reckless endangerment and was released on bond Tuesday. After reviewing the medical examiner's report, officers re-arrested her late Wednesday and charged her with capitol felony, a murder charge that carries a possible death penalty or life in prison without parole if she is convicted.
On Thursday, Hartford Superior Judge Carl Taylor granted defense attorney Claudia Jones' request to keep Torres on suicide watch at the state women's prison.
Jones declined comment after the hearing.
Torres, who was shackled and dressed in jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt, didn't speak during her court appearance, but was overcome with emotion and had to sit down.