BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Police have arrested a 23-year-old daycare worker accused of assaulting an 8-month-old girl during nap time, which resulted in her death. One police official says in his opinion, the victim was “tortured.”
Leah Walden faces numerous charges, including first and second-degree murder, in the death of Reese Bowman.
“It’s giving me cold chills now to even think about it,” said Tim Barth, who watched first responders arrive.
According to police, Walden is seen on video snatching Bowman by one arm several times, as well as placing pillows over her face.
“As a parent you send your child to daycare because you think it’s going to be safe for them,” Shelley Veasey said.
Police say Bowman died on May 23, after officers were called to the Rocket Tiers Learning Center located on South High Street for a report of a baby not breathing.
“Reese Bowman in my opinion was tortured,” said Col. Stanley Branford of Baltimore Police. “Just evil, what motive could you possibly have to treat a baby that way.”
Responding officers found medics performing CPR on an 8-month-old girl, later identified as Bowman.
“You would never think that someone would do something as evil as that because that’s an 8-month-old baby, innocent, that baby was innocent,” one person said.
Bowman was taken to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly after arriving. Police say there were no obvious signs of “trauma or injuries” to Bowman at that time.
Police immediately began investigating, and spoke with Walden, a caretaker at Rocket Tiers. She told police that she fed Bowman, wrapped her up in a blanket, and placed her in a crib for a nap.
When she returned about 45 minutes later, she said she noticed Bowman was not breathing and contact authorities.
The daycare facility has cameras throughout the center, and investigators began going through the video. The owner of the facility notified police on Wednesday that they had discovered some “disturbing” video.
Police say the video shows Walden putting excessive blankets on Bowman, which covered her head, before snatching Bowman out of the crib by one arm several times, swinging at Bowman as if she were slapping her, then placing pillows over her face.
Walden also walked off camera with Bowman several times, and police say they “can only assume” what Walden may have done off camera.
“It was really sad, they were running back and forth into daycare center. They rushed her as quick as they could into the ambulance. They had her covered up but her little feet were hanging out. It was so sad,” Veasey said.
Police say they do not know why Walden assaulted Bowman, but it appears that Bowman was awake during the assault.
According to police, there have been no previous formal complaints against this daycare facility.
Walden’s bio remained on their website which says “the best part of being a teacher is caring for babies who love me as much as I love them.”
Police say Walden had been working at the daycare for more than 2 years.
The Maryland Department of Education says they put Rocket Tiers under an emergency suspension and a spokesman says they can’t reopen unless a judge allows them to.
According to the Baltimore Sun in July an inspection cited the daycare for six violations. As of September, only four violations were corrected.
Daycare employees are required to undergo criminal background checks. It will take some time to verify whether Walden ever passed hers.
The Bowman Family released the following statement:
“Our family is suffering tremendous pain and wishes to grieve in private. Our hearts are broken. No family should ever have to experience the loss of a child under any circumstances. We await further information from the unfolding investigation.”
Police say Walden did not have a prior record and there doesn’t appear to be other victims but they’re urging parents who are suspicious to call the child abuse center at 443-984-7378.