Daycare worker pleads guilty to murdering eight-month-old baby girl, gets sentenced to 70 years in prison
24-year-old Leah Walden was sentenced to life in prison after she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of eight-month-old infant Reese Bowman
A daycare worker who was accused of murdering an eight-month-old baby girl pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree murder at her hearing at the Baltimore Circuit Court this Tuesday, November 27. Judge Althea Handy effectively sentenced 24-year-old Leah Walden to life in prison with any time beyond 70 years suspended, meaning she won't see the outside of prison until at least her 90s if she serves the full sentence.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Walden murdered baby Reese on the afternoon of May 23, 2017, after she went into a fit of rage because the infant refused to go to sleep. Walden had reportedly returned to the Rocket Tiers Learning Center after lunch to find Reese being fussy in her crib.
Annoyed, the 24-year-old slapped the child and pinned her down with one arm. When Reese kicked her legs, she picked her up from the crib before pushing her back down and piling blankets over the eight-month-old's face. The infant suffocated to death.
Walden had initially claimed that she had fed Reese and put her in the crib for a nap before coming back 45 minutes later to find the infant unresponsive, but that claim was immediately proved false by surveillance footage that had captured the entirety of the horrific incident.
The graphic video was played for the court and showed the child motionless in her crib. The Daily Mail reported how Walden was seen covering Reese with "excessive blankets for long periods of time" and also violently snatching the baby and slapping her.
Baltimore's Criminal Investigations Chief Stanley Bradford had previously described the contents of the surveillance footage similarly, calling Walden's actions "disturbing" and equating it to torture. "To me, and all of us who are parents, when we look at something like that, there's no explanation to give," he had said. "It's just evil. I mean what motive is there to treat a baby that way? From what I saw, why would you treat an eight-month-old baby, or any child for that matter, in that manner?"
As prosecutors read out the grim details, Reese's father Justin Bowman walked out of the courtroom. Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess described how Walden had previously complained about the infant to a coworker, saying, "Girl, I’m frustrated … I’m sick of this little b****. I hate this little b**** … She makes me want to punch her in the face."
The infant's death resulted in the daycare center being shut down and the Baltimore Basilica packed on the day of Reese's funeral.
Reading out his statement to the court, Bowman couldn't hold back his tears. "I will never see my girl take her first steps, hold her, kiss her, comfort her when she’s scared, hear her say 'I love you'." He was quoted saying. "I am devastated."
Judge Handy cried while watching the footage as well. Addressing Walden, she said, "I’m just reflecting on everything I heard. There are tears everywhere in this courtroom." She told the 24-year-old she had "thought about" killing the infant, to which the defendant meekly agreed.
She apologized for her actions, telling Handy she did not have any training or help at the daycare. She cried as she spoke, "I’m so sorry. With all my heart, I’m sorry. There was not a time in my heart that I wanted this to happen."
Walden's sister also spoke in the court and insisted the 24-year-old was not a malicious person. "She’s not a monster," she said. "She’s not an evil person. She was frustrated," she added, before turning to the Bowmans and saying, "I’m so sorry. With all my heart, I’m sorry."
Walden will be eligible for parole in 35 years when she's 59.