By Alene Tchekmedyian, firstname.lastname@example.org
5:24 PM PST, November 27, 2012
The attorney representing the mother of an infant who died of internal injuries said his client had no knowledge of any alleged physical abuse, calling her “very loving, very caring, very soft-spoken.”
The mother, 21-year-old Elizabeth Carter, was arrested shortly after her daughter, Violet Wojcik, was taken off life support. The father, 19-year-old Matthew Wojcik, was arrested nearly a month earlier on suspicion of felony child abuse — the day after their five-week-old infant was brought to the hospital with broken bones.
He remains in custody in lieu of $1-million bail after being charged with murder and felony child abuse causing death.
Carter faces one felony count of child abuse for allegedly permitting the infant to “be inflicted with unjustifiable physical pain and mental suffering,” according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court criminal complaint. She was released after posting $130,000 bail.
A woman who answered the phone at Carter’s home declined to comment, but her attorney, Paul Geller, said Monday that any accusation that his client was somehow complicit in Violet’s death was false and did not correspond with her as a person.
“She certainly attended to the baby’s health when she realized there was a problem,” Geller said. “She’s come across to me as very genuine, very loving, very caring, very soft-spoken.”
Facebook photos revealed a seemingly happy couple who both graduated from Glendale High School. Last year, they visited Washington to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, bowled with friends and hiked at the Deschutes River with Carter’s grandparents.
In a photo caption, Carter referred to Wojcik as the “lovee of my lifeee.”
But on Oct. 23, the couple’s baby, Violet, was admitted to a local hospital with broken bones and injuries that appeared to be a result of child abuse, prompting hospital employees to contact Burbank police.
After interviewing hospital staff and parents, police arrested Matthew Wojcik.
Two days later, he pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony child abuse — charges that have since been amended to murder, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Carter, on the other hand, wasn’t arrested until nearly a month later.
She is due in court next month.
“I’m a little surprised that she was arrested so late in the investigation,” Geller said. “If the prosecutors felt that she had contributed to the endangerment of the child, I don’t know why it took so long for her to be formally arrested.”
Wojcik is due back in court on Monday. His public defender on Tuesday declined to comment on the case.
The baby — who Burbank Police Lt. Eddie Ruiz at the time said was “shaken very hard, which caused internal injuries” — was taken off life support Nov. 9.
“[Carter] had to go through an extremely difficult emotional decision to take the baby off life support,” Geller said. “To now project her to prosecution after having to deal with that emotional decision I think is questionable.”
Carter currently works at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Burbank, a company representative confirmed Monday.
A co-worker — who asked to remain anonymous because she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media at work — said no one at Lowe’s knew Carter was pregnant until she took a leave of absence two weeks before her baby was due.
A few weeks after the baby was born though, Carter and her grandmother brought the child to Lowe’s to “show her off,” the co-worker said, adding that Carter seemed doting and loving.
“She was asking new-mom questions,” like whether it was OK to fall asleep with her baby on her chest, the co-worker said. “She said, ‘I would be worried I’d roll on [her].’”
The day before Violet died, Carter posted a photo on her Facebook profile of her and the baby. In the pictures, Violet was sleeping, donning a blue dress with colorful polka dots. The post didn’t note the baby’s death.
Facebook friends were surprised and congratulatory.
“Omg!!! You had a baby!!!! I didn't even know you were pregnant!!! Congrats!!!;) soo happy for you!!!” one friend wrote that evening.
Prior to Wojcik’s arrest, the couple was living together in Carter’s grandmother’s home in Burbank, Geller said.
Carter’s co-worker said the young mother had disclosed her child’s hospitalization and death, but did not reveal details.
“She said she didn’t want to discuss it. I said, ‘I’ll pray for you,’” Carter’s co-worker said. “She said, ‘Thank you, please pray for my baby.’”
The Lowe’s employee was unaware Monday of the child abuse charges against Carter, but had advised Carter over the weekend via text message and email to seek employee relief from Lowe’s for Violet’s funeral.
“She was saying her heart was broken and she was having trouble getting out of the bed,” the employee said. “I asked her how [Wojcik] was holding up and she said he was having trouble but he was hanging in.”
If convicted, Wojcik faces up to life in state prison.
Carter, on the other hand, faces up to 10 years in state prison if convicted, according to the criminal complaint.
Staff writer Kelly Corrigan contributed to this report.