Jennifer Rosenbaum told the 911 operator that the toddler had been choking on some chicken. The blockage was out but the little girl’s breathing was slow and her eyes were rolled back into her head.
“I’m trying to do CPR. She keeps going white on me,” Rosenbaum told the operator. “I’m hoping I didn’t break her rib. I’ve been pushing hard. I don’t really know how to do this.”
That same 911 tape, obtained Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, may well become a critical part of the criminal case involving Rosenbaum, who is charged with murder and child abuse in connection with the Nov. 17 death of 2-year-old Laila Marie Daniel.
The 911 tape is also emerging as a potentially key part of Rosenbaum’s defense. Her attorney, Corinne Mull, said on Tuesday that the force Rosenbaum used while applying the Heimlich maneuver and CPR compressions may well have caused a fatal injury to the child’s pancreas.
Warrants accuse Jennifer Rosenbaum of causing Laila’s death, in part, by hitting her in the abdomen “with such force the child’s pancreas was transected.” Authorities say the pancreas injury was a major factor in the girl’s death.
Mull told the AJC that Rosenbaum, an Emory University law student and candidate for a seat on the Henry County Commission, never abused the child. She also offered explanations for the child’s other injuries, such as broken bones and bruises as well as signs of malnourishment.
“A lot of the injuries were misread and misdated,” Mull said. “She would never do this.”
Rosenbaum, 27, of McDonough, was arrested Friday in connection with the death of Laila. Her husband, Joseph, was charged with two counts of child abuse.
The state Division of Family and Children Services had placed Laila and her 4-year-old sister in the care of the Rosenbaums, having removed the children from their parents’ home for safety concerns. Laila’s death has raised concerns about the wisdom of the state’s decision among some child welfare advocates.
But State Child Advocate Ashley Willcott took issue with the explanations offered by Rosenbaum’s attorney. She had trouble believing that maneuvers such as the Heimlich and CPR compressions would do such extensive damage to a child’s pancreas.
“It does not ring true,” Willcott said.
Then there is the long list of accusations - the broken bones, bruises, the injury to the pancreas, the signs of malnourishment, the assertion that both children were abused - that concern her.
Mull, the attorney for the Rosenbaums, said Laila’s broken bones in her legs and arms occurred before she came into the couple’s care. The attorney claims the Rosenbaums didn’t have custody of the children until late July. The warrants allege Laila’s abuse occurred between June 13 and the day of her death in November.
The bruises found on the child, she added, are the result of the efforts to revive her as well as the general bumps and bruises that occur to any toddler.
Mull said that DFCS caseworkers and those from other agencies regularly visited the Rosenbaum home during the three and a half months the girls were there.
As for the accusation that Laila was malnourished, she said, “I don’t know. My understanding is that the child ate tremendously. It may be possibly due to metabolic problems.”
Mull also commented on the authorites’ assertion that Laila’s sister also said she was abused. Mull said the children had been in other foster homes where there might have been problems. She said children can mix up exactly where and when such events occurred.
They can also be “easily led” to say things, she said.
“When you take in foster children you don’t know what’s in their history,” Mull said.
Mull said Jennifer Rosenbaum knew the girls’ parents. She said Rosenbaum, who had been a foster child herself, had led a life of achievement, having served in the military and worked for state lawmakers. She was working her way through Emory law school and was dedicated to helping children, Mull said.
“She is pretty traumatized,” Mull said.
During the 911 call, the operator asks Rosenbaum to tell him every time the girl takes a breath, and she does. But the space between breaths gradually grows longer and longer.
Then the operator gives Rosenbaum instructions on how to perform CPR, tilting the child’s head back and pressing down on her chest.
“I’m doing it,” she said, and asked how close the paramedics were to the home.
The tape ends with sirens approaching the home on Lincoln Terrace in Henry County.
“Yes, I see them,” Rosenbaum tells the operator. “But she’s not breathing.”
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