A babysitter has been charged with murder after a 4-month-old girl who was in her care died.
Norma Chagnama, 29, was held without bail Monday following her arrest on a single count of felony murder in the death of Zury Cruz Sumba, who allegedly suffered brain and spinal injuries while in Chagnama’s care last week.
Cook County prosecutors alleged Chagnama operated an unlicensed daycare out of her Albany Park home, where she watched children while their parents were away at work.
One of those children was Cruz Sumba, whose parents had hired Chagnama to watch the girl multiple times per week since late last year.
According to Assistant State’s Attorney Jane Sack, Cruz Sumba’s parents had no issues with Chagnama’s care of their daughter until last Thursday, when the girl began vomiting while laying on her back in a bed inside Chagnama’s home.
When Chagnama realized this, she picked the girl up from the bed ”forcefully” and without supporting her head, according to Sack. She then allegedly swung Cruz Sumba over her shoulder and began patting her on the back before throwing her back down onto the bed.
Chagnama realized Cruz Sumba was having difficulty breathing and called the girl’s mother, who was on her way to pick her daughter up, Sack said. When Cruz Sumba’s mother arrived, she began giving her daughter CPR and called 911, but the girl appeared unresponsive.
Cruz Sumba was hospitalized and doctors discovered what Sack described as a “large” subdural hematoma in the girl’s brain. She was eventually taken off life support and died early Friday morning.
An autopsy classified Cruz Sumba’s death as a homicide caused by multiple injuries relating to child abuse, according to records from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
According to Sack, Cruz Sumba had significant injuries all along her spinal cord and her brain was swollen. The medical examiner determined the girl’s subdural hematoma had been caused within 24 hours of her death and that these injuries could have been caused when Chagnama picked her up and then threw her back onto the bed, Sack said.
After Cruz Sumba’s death, Chagnama and her husband went to visit with the girl’s parents, at which point Chagnama allegedly indicated she was “sorry” and her husband offered the parents $2,000 to help cover funeral expenses.
Chagnama was arrested Saturday and allegedly demonstrated for police how she handled Cruz Sumba after the girl threw up on the bed.
During Monday’s hearing, Sack also noted that Cruz Sumba’s parents were each arrested last month on misdemeanor charges of child endangerment after they allegedly left the girl in their vehicle while they were inside a restaurant. The Department of Children and Family Services briefly took custody of Cruz Sumba, but she was returned to her parents approximately two weeks before her death, Sack said.
Chagnama’s defense attorney Niklas Lofgren said Cruz Sumba’s death was “very unfortunate and disastrous” but argued his client was simply trying to save the girl as she was vomiting.
“We’re not sure exactly what happened,” he said, noting that no witnesses were present inside the bedroom with Chagnama and Cruz Sumba. “This was not an attempt to injure a child, this was not an attempt to cause any damage.”
Lofgren also claimed Cruz Sumba’s mother performing CPR also could have caused her daughter’s injuries.
Chagnama is due back in court for a hearing Feb. 27.