Two foster parents pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder charges in connection with the death of Laila Marie Daniel, a 2-year-old girl in their care.
Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum were arraigned in Henry County Superior Court on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated battery and child cruelty in the death of Laila on Nov. 17 of last year. Jennifer Rosenbaum, a former foster child herself, had been a candidate for the Henry County Commission last year.
The couple did not address the court during the proceeding, which opens a new phase in the prosecution of the case expected to go to trial at the earliest in the middle of next year. In this phase, called discovery, both sides submit motions and reveal evidence and interviews they’ve gathered, including the girl’s autopsy and state child welfare file.
“We certainly hope to show that these two individuals are innocent of all charges against them,” the Rosenbaums’ attorney, Corinne Mull, said Tuesday.
Both of the Rosenbaums remain out on bond.
Authorities had originally said Jennifer Rosenbaum killed Laila Marie Daniel by striking the girl in the abdomen with such force that the child’s pancreas was split. Laila went into shock because of blood loss resulting from the injury, according to the autopsy.
The charges against Joseph Rosenbaum were upgraded in September from child cruelty to murder. District Attorney James Wright said that occurred after the autopsy on the child revealed a history of injuries going back more than a month before her death.
Mull, the Rosenbaums’ attorney, has said Laila’s death was likely a tragic accident. Mull said the girl died after Jennifer Rosenbaum performed the Heimlich maneuver and CPR when the child was choking on some chicken. Mull said the force of the compressions may have injured the child.
As for Joseph Rosenbaum, Mull said, “He had nothing to do with anything.”
The family of Laila welcomed the forward movement in the case, having waited a year for the legal process to proceed.
Peggy Banks, Laila’s great-grandmother, said she expects the trial may not occur until 2018.
“They talk about justice being swift, but it seems to be anything but at times,” she said.
She added she is hoping for “justice for Laila.”