NEW YORK CITY — The stepmother of the 7-year-old Florida girl who survived a six-story plunge from a Brooklyn apartment was arrested Thursday morning on charges she beat the child before she fell the window, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Authorities also accused her of endangering the girl by leaving her alone in a sixth-floor room with an open window and no window guards.
Diana Metellus, 19, was charged with assaulting her stepdaughter with a folded belt before the girl fell out her relatives' apartment in the Gravesend Houses last Wednesday evening.
At her arraignment at Brooklyn Criminal Court on Thursday afternoon, she was also hit with reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing, and harrasment charges.
Visibly shaking at times, Metellus said nothing except "yes" to Judge Craig Walker when he asked if she understood the charges. She was dressed in a brown silk top that was open in the back, plaid pants, high heels and hoop earings.
Walker set bail for Metelus at $35,000.
"What is before the court are very serious charges," he said.
Metellus told investigators she repeatedly hit the girl after she was found wandering the streets in a daze and was returned home to Metellus by the police. The NYPD had to race back to the building only two hours later after the girl plunged out the window July 10.
The child was critically injured in the fall, suffering numerous broken bones throughout her body, including her pelvis.
Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Wilfredo Cotto said the girl was left in a room with an open window that had no bars while Metellus went to take a shower.
“The defendant beat the complaint with belt leaving marks on defendant’s arms and legs and told her to stay in her room...as punishment for leaving the apartment alone," Cotto said.
Surgeons examining the girl at Lutheran Hospital turned up evidence of methadone, marijuana and heroin in her blood as well as bruises to the body that officials fear may be signs of sexual abuse.
Her relatives said they have no idea how drugs got into her system, how she went out the window and they deny she was abused, sources said.
The stepmom, however, did admit she was angry that the girl left home earlier Wednesday and beat her with the belt after the cops brought her home. The officers determined that there was no evidence of wrongdoing and decided to leave the child at the home.
Sources said the girl left the apartment because she said she feared her family was going to send her to Haiti to live with other relatives.
Because of her injuries — fractured pelvis, retinal bleeding and signs of sexual abuse — the girl has been unable to be interviewed by investigators, sources said.
At Thursday's arraignment, Metellus' attorney, Leon Schrage, said most of the girl's injuries came from the fall and argued that it was the landlord's resposibility to make sure windows were safe.
"There is no allegation that my client took the child to the window or anything. It seems that what occurred has nothing to do with my client placing this child near a window," he said.
“The recklessness and disregard for this child begins way before the belt and window incident.”
Her father, who was not in New York, was contacted in Florida by the NYPD. He said he had no idea why his daughter would want to hurt herself.
According to authorities, the girl, whose name is being withheld by DNAinfo New York, lives outside Miami, but was in Brooklyn visiting relatives.
She fell from a sixth-floor apartment in the Gravesend Houses at 7:43 p.m. last Wednesday, sources said.
“On The Inside” first reported the story about the girl’s fall, miraculous survival and that she had drugs in her system.
A family member who found the girl shortly after the fall told DNAinfo New York the child struggled to get up from the grass outside the project.
"I want to get up. I want to get up. I want to get up," the badly injured girl told witness Regina Speller, 51. "I want to go home ... (to) Florida."
Deloris Johnson, 65, who lives in the building, said the girl "wasn't crying. She was just moaning. There was no blood. She was opening and closing her eyes."
Jennifer Smith, who lives near the girl's relatives, said before the fall a young girl had knocked on her door.
"The girl kept saying, 'Get someone to take me to the airport,'" said Smith, 38.
The girl’s 1-year-old stepbrother was taken into custody by the city's Administration for Children's Services after a family court hearing Friday. Metellus will next appear in court on July 23.