It seemed like a blessing to Tessa Daniel.
A woman she vaguely remembered from her childhood was offering to care for her two young daughters, at least until Daniel could get her life on track.
Jennifer Rosenbaum had at one time been in a children’s shelter with Daniel. She and her husband, Joseph seemed like good, caring people, Daniel testified Thursday in a Henry County courtroom.
“I figured that she couldn’t mean nothing bad,” Daniel said. “I figured she had to have good intentions if she reached out like that.”
Four months later, her 2-year-old daughter, Laila, was dead.
On Nov. 17, 2015, Jennifer Rosenbaum called 911 to report that Laila choked while eating a chicken nugget. Rosenbaum said she used the Heimlich maneuver and then CPR on Laila, who later died.
But paramedics noted bruising on Laila’s body. And an autopsy revealed the child suffered a blow to her abdomen that ruptured her pancreas. She also had other internal injuries and broken bones suffered over time, according to GBI medical examiners. There was no evidence she had choked, the autopsy revealed.
Two weeks after Laila’s death, the Rosenbaums were arrested and charged in the toddler’s death.
Jennifer Rosenbaum faces malice and felony murder charges, as well as child cruelty, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Joseph Rosenbaum is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly leaving Laila in his wife’s care when he knew she was abusing the child. Both have pleaded not guilty and are out on bond.
Testifying Thursday, Daniel — who previously went by the last name Clendening — said she began to suspect something wasn’t right soon after Laila and her big sister Millie moved in with the Rosenbaums in July 2015.
Daniel said Rosenbaum told her Laila was often sick, requiring doctor visits, and broke her leg during gymnastics. Rosenbaum often canceled Daniel’s planned visits with her youngest child, she testified. Rosenbaum sent the girls’ mother many pictures, but very few of Laila.
In her cross-examination, defense attorney Corinne Mull attempted to show that the girls were well-cared for while in the care of the Rosenbaums. Mull also questioned Daniel about whether she was responsible for cancelling the visits with her girls. Sometimes, Daniel said, she did cancel the meetings because she was ill and pregnant with her third child.
Daniel told the court she had drug problems, and wasn’t able to give the girls a stable home. Her daughters lived with relatives and friends before the Department of Family and Children Services stepped in.
Following Daniel’s testimony, several other witnesses were called to the stand Thursday afternoon, including several people who took care of Laila.
Cynthia Tate, who knew Daniel and her mother from a job at medical office, testified that she began caring for Laila two days after her first birthday. Tate testified that Laila showed no signs of abuse and was healthy while in her home.
Mull asked Tate whether she was aware that Vitamin C caused Laila to develop rashes. Tate replied that she hadn’t given the child Vitamin C and wasn’t aware of the rashes.
Tate was shown pictures of Laila’s injuries at the time of her death. A prosecutor asked Tate if she had ever seen those type of bruises on Laila when she took care of her.
“No sir,” she said, while wiping away tears.
John Potts, a pediatrician, also testified Thursday afternoon that his office saw Laila four times. Potts said he never saw signs of abuse on Laila’s body or Millie’s.
The trial will continue Friday morning.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.