Babysitter's family says she's no murderer

2:37 PM, Jun 25, 2011   |    comments
  • The husband and children of Maria Owens are standing by her after her arrest on a murder charge.
  • Maria Owens faces a murder charge for the death of an 11-month-old boy in her care.
  • Maria Owens booking photo in the Fulton County Jail.
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FAIRBURN, Ga. -- The family members of Maria Owens, 42, said they are stunned by her arrest earlier this month on a murder charge for the death of an 11-month-old boy in her care.

Owens is in custody in the Fulton County Jail, but her husband and four children stood in front of their Fairburn home early Saturday to say there was no motive and no history of violence.

"Every person my mother kept, she treats them like her own kids," said LaKelle Owens, 11. 

Owens was caring for the boy and his older sibling in her home.

Her own children were in the next room, and her husband was upstairs when she told police the baby started having trouble breathing.

"She patted him on his back as he was gasping for air and called 911," said Mark Owens, Maria's husband. 

Her attorney, Mawuli Mel Davis, released a copy of her 911. Here's part of it:

Owens: "I have my daycare baby...He can't breath. He's breathing a little, but not like he should."

911: "Are you with him now?"

Owens: "Yes. I'm holding him in my arms right now."

911: "Is he awake?"

Owens: "He's awake, but he keeps going in and out...He's trying to gasp for air. Now he's trying to cry a little bit."

"You can hear in her voice the concern she has for this child's well-being," Davis said. 

He said his client wasn't angry or panicked and had no reason to hurt the child.

And yet the baby died at the hospital later that night after suffering from internal bleeding and a broken back.

"It's just inconsistent," Davis said. "We believe maybe a there was a freak accident. It's unclear how the child's back could be broken in her care."

"To this day, that's mind-boggling," said Owens' husband. "I don't know what to say and can't understand that."

According to the police report, the child's parents said they had never noticed anything out of the ordinary or suspicious.

Owens had worked for the family for years, caring first for an older child.

When reached by phone Saturday, the parents had not comment.

Owens is due in court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.

Davis said he'll try to convince the judge to drop the murder charge.

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