The Bucks County District Attorney said Monday he will seek the death penalty for a Bristol Township man charged with the torture and murder of an 18-month-year-old Bensalem girl.
“This is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” David Heckler said before the arraignment for Adrian Morgan Allen. “We contend this was an intentional killing, first-degree murder.”
The child, called B.A. in court documents, died on March 7, 10 days after she was brought into St. Mary Medical Center unconscious with a severe head injury that required emergency surgery. She also suffered from a broken arm, broken ribs, an adult bite mark on her arm and bruises all over her body, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Allen was “solely in charge” of the girl and her two sisters, ages 5 and 8, on the weekend of Feb. 24, when she suffered the fatal head injury, Heckler said. Allen, who was watching the girls for his girlfriend, gave police at least two explanations — that chairs had fallen on her head, and that he might have kicked her in the head — but Heckler called them “cover stories.”
“He intentionally swung the child, which caused massive head trauma,” Heckler said.
After the injury, “the child lay for the better part of the day without [treatment], comatose and grinding her teeth,” Heckler said. She was taken to the hospital by her mother, Nakia Adams, that evening.
The child had been treated at St. Mary’s for a broken leg on Jan. 7, according to the affidavit, and the county’s Children and Youth Social Services was notified, Heckler said. Their review concentrated on the broken leg, he said.
“We believe there was clearance” for the broken leg, that the Children and Youth Services workers “were satisfied with the explanation of the older siblings,” Heckler said.
During that hospital visit, “old burn marks and/or old injuries to her upper left leg” were found, according to the affidavit. Investigators are looking into whether the county workers were aware of those injuries, Heckler said.
Allen, who is not the father of any of the girls, was the “primary caregiver” in November and December, when B.A. was hurt; in January, when she broke her leg, and on the weekend of Feb. 24, according to the affidavit.
Heckler said he was “unaware of any other abuse” of B.A.‘s sisters, who were removed from their home at Creekside Apartments and are living with their grandmother. Asked whether their mother could face charges, Heckler said the investigation is continuing.
Police had not received any recent calls to the apartment in the 2500 block of Knights Road, said Frederick Harran, township director of public safety.
Allen, wearing a green coat over an orange prison overalls, was arraigned on first-degree murder and child-endangerment charges before District Justice Joseph P. Falcone, who denied bail. Allen’s only comments were his address, phone number and occupation — a student at Pennco Tech in Bristol Borough.
Police said Allen had a record of burglary and narcotics offenses in New Jersey.
After the brief arraignment, he was returned to county prison, where he had been held for two weeks on aggravated assault charges in the case.
If convicted of the upgraded first-degree murder charge, the penalties would be “life or death,” Heckler said.
"We contend that at least two specifications warrant the death penalty," Heckler said. "The child was less than 12 years old, and the result of the post-mortem examination suggests that elements of torture were involved.
The autospy ruled head trauma as the cause of death, noted the recent and older injuries, and found signs that B.A. had been “struck or whipped.”
One of Allen’s two court-appointed lawyers, Charles Jonas, said he received the case last week and could not comment.