Babysitter is found guilty of beating Norfolk sailors' infant son to death
By JONATHAN EDWARDS | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: January 10, 2020
NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The two Navy sailors trusted a babysitter, Ashadiya’Xolani Brooks, to care for their 18-month-old son.
Instead, she murdered him.
After a three-day trial and two hours of deliberations, Norfolk jurors on Friday found Brooks guilty of second-degree murder. They recommended she spend 28 years in prison after considering a range of five to 40 years. Circuit Judge Everett Martin will officially sentence Brooks at a later date, although judges almost always follow juries’ recommendations.
No one who testified saw Brooks do anything to the toddler, Amir Melton, but prosecutors asked jurors to essentially consider the boy before and after he was dropped off at Brooks’ home around 9 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2018.
Before his mother dropped him off and left for the day, Amir was a normal toddler. He had learned to walk and could feed himself. “He was fine when I left him,” his mother, Kiaria Melton, testified.
A few hours later, her son had a skull fracture and bleeding throughout his brain that was so bad, it would kill him.
Prosecutor Jill Harris showed jurors two photos of Amir. In the one on the left, a toddler sits in a car seat, flashing a million-dollar smile and hamming it up for the camera. On the right, a brain-dead boy with his eyes closed and tubes coming out of and covering half his face.
The only person who was there between the two: Brooks.
On Thursday, she testified in her own defense. She admitted she lied to police about the toddler who died on her watch. She admitted she lied to Child Protective Services. She admitted she lied to the mother of the 18-month-old boy about what happened.
Again and again she lied. First, she said nothing happened that morning that could explain the massive head trauma Amir suffered — the skull fracture, the massive bleeding throughout his brain, the fact the nerve connecting his eye to his brain had been severed by a force so severe, it was like being whiplashed in a brutal car crash.
As homicide detective Bill Cogswell pleaded with her to offer up some explanation, she said she had memory problems.
Then she said she did remember: Her own 18-month-old son and Amir had been playing tug-of-war over a toy basketball. Her son let go, sending Amir flying backward. He fell and hit the back of his head on the tile floor.
But, Brooks told jurors this week, she was ready to tell the truth. No, she didn’t kill Amir, but she lied about what happened to him.
Brooks said she was afraid police and prosecutors would go after her own toddler son, who’d tussled with Melton, causing him to fall and hit his head. She was afraid CPS would take her son away.
Prosecutors called her testimony yet another self-serving lie designed to get away with murdering a bright, happy toddler.
Their evidence: Three doctors who testified that a fall like the one Brooks described would come nowhere near to causing the injuries Melton sustained.
Brooks had an explanation for that too: “Sometimes doctors are wrong.”
The jury disagreed.