An ailing four-year-old girl — who weighed only about 15 pounds and was punished by being tied to her bed with twine — was found dead in her Brooklyn home this morning, cops said.
Police are now questioning the mother and other relatives of Marchella Pierce, who has suffered from respiratory problems since birth and had a tracheotomy, law enforcement sources said.
Detectives are also investigating whether Marchella had trauma to her arms, wrists and ankles. They found food in the refrigerator at the girl's Bedford Stuyvesant home at 823 Madison Street and two other children who appeared to be healthy — a five-year-old boy and a 9-month-old boy.
It looked like the little girl had been starving to death — but law enforcement sources cautioned that she could have grown thin because of her illness.
"We don't know if it's because of a medical condition or lack of food," said one law enforcement source.
When police saw the twine in the bed, the mother, Carlotta Pierce, admitted that she had used it to tie the girl to her bed as punishment, sources said.
Outside the police station, the little girl's father, Tyrone Pierce, 30, said his daughter "had trouble breathing."
"She'd usually eat through the feeding tube," he told NBCNewYork. "This is the first time I'm hearing about her being restrained. Every time I'm here [at the home] she's running around playing with her siblings."
In July, Marchella's tracheotomy tube fell out and her mother took her to the hospital to get it re-inserted, sources said.. However the mother, 30, allegedly refused to undergo training suggested by the hospital in administering the device, said sources.
Detectives are awaiting an official cause of death from the Medical Examiner's office but sources said the little girl looked severely malnourished, with painfully thin legs and her ribs visible.
The mother said that Marchella had fallen down the stairs yesterday, when asked about signs of apparent trauma to the little girl's body, sources said. Carlotta Pierce also insisted that she had been taking proper care of Marchella and feeding her, the sources said. An oxygen tank had been installed in the little girl's room. Although the mother said that she found her daughter unconscious in bed about 6 a.m., she waited another hour and a half before calling 911, sources said. By the time help arrived it was too late and the little girl was pronounced dead.
It appears that the city's Administration for Children's Services had been monitoring Marchella since birth, sources said. The agency last visited the home about two months ago and apparently did not raise any red flags then, sources said.
In a statement, ACS Commissioner John Mattingly said the agency was investigating.
"We are deeply saddened and troubled by this tragic loss of life, and we have begun conducting a full investigation," Mattingly said. "We don't yet know all the facts in this case, but we will get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible, and we'll take every appropriate action as quickly as possible."
Marchella's grandmother lived with the family, which also kept a dog in the apartment which sources described as "messy."