SOUTH BRONX — A day care provider convicted for killing a toddler in her care was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday, a decision the boy's mother maintained was too lenient.
The child, 20-month-old Cardell Williamson, was in Athena Skeeter's care on Aug. 22, 2014, when she threw him on the floor of her College Avenue apartment and repeatedly stepped on his stomach, actions she described as play wrestling, prosecutors said.
The 43-year-old care provider then put Cardell in a tub, and although she said she poured cold water on him, she returned to find the water extremely hot, according to the Bronx District Attorney's Office. The toddler was left scalded and taken to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"I just felt numb," the boy's 35-year-old mother Thomasina Cheatham, who was five months pregnant at the time of his death, wrote in a victim impact statement that was read at Skeeter's sentencing by prosecutor Danielle Pascale. "Everything started seeming blurry. I was in a state of shock."
"I was trying to run outside," she continued, "run in front of a car and kill myself and my unborn child."
Pascale read a statement from Cardell's 58-year-old father Carlyle Williamson as well, who wrote that he had been through "three years of hell and misery" since the death of his son.
Skeeter declined to speak during her appearance, but her attorney Edward McGowan vigorously defended her before the sentence was handed down, stressing that she was not in court for intentionally killing or hurting Cardell but because of a horrific accident that she regrets every day.
"She loved Cardell Williamson as much as anyone in this room," he said.
Skeeter had pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter in the death of Cardell and was sentenced to four years in prison for the crime.
Although Cheatham argued that this sentence was too lenient, she said she would continue to try holding her head up and honoring her son's life regardless.
"His memories will last forever," she said.
Cardell was nicknamed "Michael Jackson" due to his love of dance, and his father had described the two of them as "inseparable." He said after Skeeter's sentencing that he was particularly sad he would never get to take his son trick-or-treating.
Cheatham wrote in her impact statement that she loves Cardell and hopes he is at peace now.
"Cardell, mommy loves you. You are truly missed," it read. "Rest in peace. Sleep in peace."