A mother will be spending life in prison for starving her daughter to death and dumping her body in the trash because the baby didn’t fit in with the rest of the family. Tania Coleman, 21, was convicted today of first-degree murder in Erie, Pennsylvania for the demise of her 14-month-old child, whose decomposed body was found in a suitcase on the street.
Prosecutors said Coleman’s chubby-cheeked child Alayja was deprived of food and drink because she was considered the family ‘runt.’ In the courtroom, Erie District Attorney Jack Daneri said the young girl was considered a problem for Coleman, who neglected the baby because Alayja did not share the same father as her two other daughters. Mr Daneri said of Alayja’s treatment: ‘Everybody else gets cared for but the little runt.’ The exact timing of Alayja’s death has not been determined.
In May 2011, Erie firefighters found the girl’s decayed body in the suitcase along a street as they responded to a call of a kitchen fire nearby. Witnesses said Coleman and Xavier Hollamon, the father of the woman’s two other daughters, were seen at a Walmart in late April purchasing a trash can. Alayja’s body is believed to have been inside the trash can until someone stole the container and left the suitcase on the road just before firefighters stumbled upon it. Prosecutors said that during Alayja’s short life, she struggled without basic necessities, including medical care and food to eat. Mr Daneri argued that Coleman intentionally starved the girl because Hollamon did not want Alayja to belong to the family and didn’t like that she was small and couldn’t walk. Hollamon pleaded guilty on misdemeanor charges connected to getting rid of the body. He agreed to work with the prosecution.
The defense, however, said the child’s death was just a medical problem. Jamie Mead, Coleman’s court-appointed attorney, said the baby would not eat and Coleman had difficulty keeping Alayja’s weight up. Mr Mead agreed that the mother should have gotten medical treatment for the baby, but he said Coleman did not intend to kill the baby. ‘This is classic, classic example of failure to thrive,’ he said in court. ‘Combine that with an overwhelmed mother and you may have tragedy. ‘You don’t have murder.’ A jury took around three hours to determine that Coleman was responsible for murdering her daughter. The defendant cried as she left the courtroom. Life in prison with no possibility of parole is mandatory for a first-degree murder conviction. Coleman is scheduled to be sentenced May 17.