Babysitter claims ibuprofen, fall led to 1-year-old's death

CINCINNATI - New details emerged at an arraignment hearing Monday morning for the babysitter charged in connection with the death of a 1-year-old boy.

Marquita Burch, 27, faced a judge at the Hamilton County Justice Center after police found the body of the boy she was babysitting, 1-year-old William Cunningham, in a Winton Road apartment Saturday morning. Burch originally told Covington police on Friday that the baby was missing. She later changed her story, directing police to a the Cincinnati apartment, where they found the boy's body in a hallway closet.

Burch was charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence after the discovery of the body.

Derek Gustafson, Burch's attorney, said the boy suffered an accidental injury after falling down steps. Burch gave the boy ibuprofen and put him to bed and the following morning Cunningham was found dead according to Gustafson.

"Even if that were the truth, there were still some things that happened following William's demise that were very inappropriate and very inhumane and still have to be dealt with," said Vanessa Sparks, Cunningham's great aunt. "When you are put in a position of trust and someone trusts you with your children, you know what to do in a case of emergency. So things should have been handled a lot differently than what they were and this should have never happened."

Family members tell 9 News Burch was friends with the little boy's mother and would babysit him on a regular basis. They brought signs to the court hearing demanding justice.

"I just wanted to be here to show that the family is paying attention to the case and we want justice in William's death," said Sparks.

Police said Burch told them the child was missing from a Covington park on Friday night. After an intense search involving local law enforcement agencies, detectives said Burch recanted her story and told them the little boy died at her apartment on Sheehan Avenue in Hartwell.

Officers then found the boy's body inside the closet on Winton Road after Burch told police she had moved the body.

Tuesday morning, Hamilton County Coroner, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco told 9 News an autopsy of William Cunningham showed the baby had trauma to his head, blood inside his skull and an injury to the brain. Dr. Sammarco said because of the decomposition of the boy's body, the exact time of death is unclear, but she believed the boy had been dead for at least 48 hours. Dr. Sammarco is now in the process of talking to Cincinnati Police investigators to get a clear idea of what developmental stage the child was in, for example if he was walking or talking.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the judge ordered Burch's bond to remain the same at $500,000.

The family is working on another vigil for William. They held one Saturday and Sunday evening. They say remembering him is helping them heal.

"Things should have been handled differently then what they were, this should have never happened," said Sparks. "The family needs to know what happened, we need to start to heal, we need to start to work on some resolution towards getting to the bottom of what really took place."

Funeral arrangements are being made at the Gwen Mooney Funeral Home in Spring Grove Village. Cunningham's family is also in the process of setting up a memorial fund.

Officials have not released any additional details at this time.

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