Thursday, August 05, 1999

Court told of girl's last night: Sick, beaten as mother partied

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        While her mother drank vodka and played cards, prosecutors say, Jasmine Wilkerson bled to death from the beating she had endured hours earlier.

        They say her mother, Belanda Moore, beat the 7-year-old girl and then refused to interrupt her party to help her.

        By the time the party ended the next morning, the child was dead.

        “Her daughter was injured and she did nothing,” assistant prosecutor Richard Gibson said Wednesday. “Her response was to have a party.”

        In his opening statements at Ms. Moore's murder trial, Mr. Gibson said the Winton Hills woman was selfish, violent and more interested in protecting herself than seeking help for her daughter.

        He said Ms. Moore knew she had inflicted serious harm on her daughter but did not take her to a hospital because she feared criminal charges.

        Ms. Moore, 29, is accused of beating Jasmine with a rolled leather belt and stomping on her chest with her knee.

        Mr. Gibson said she beat the girl as punishment for misbehaving at school.

        “She was hitting Jasmine harder than she'd ever hit her before,” Mr. Gibson said.

        Ms. Moore's attorney, Pete Rosenwald, said his client could not have realized the extent of the girl's injuries because most of the damage was internal.

        “The external evidence is minor,” he said. “Externally, there was very little to be seen.”

        He also disputed the prosecutor's contention that Ms. Moore was abusive and uncaring. He said she had recently become frustrated by Jasmine's behavioral problems, including lying and stealing.

        “She was a single mother doing the best she could,” Mr. Rosenwald said of Ms. Moore, who has two other children.

        Mr. Gibson said the trouble began Feb. 11 when Ms. Moore got a call from Jasmine's teacher about a pair of glasses she had brought to school.

        The teacher, Earnesteen Robinson, said she was concerned about the glasses because Jasmine had recently been picking up items that did not belong to her.

        Before hanging up, Ms. Robinson testified, Ms. Moore told her: “I just want her to tell the truth.”

        Mr. Gibson said Ms. Moore then ordered the child to take off her clothes, tied her up and began beating her with the belt. To hold her down, he said, Ms. Moore “stomped” on her chest five or six times with her knee.

        In a taped statement played earlier this week, Ms. Moore told police she kicked the child and drove her knee into her chest several times.

        Mr. Gibson told jurors that Ms. Moore's cousin visited the home later that night and asked why Jasmine was crying and vomiting.

        He said Ms. Moore admitted she “made a mistake” and had hit Jasmine too hard. When the cousin urged her to take Jasmine to the hospital, however, Ms. Moore refused.

        “She said she's scared to go to the hospital,” Mr. Gibson said. “She said, "Jasmine's faking. She's not hurt, she's faking it.'”

        The trial resumes today before Judge Robert Kraft in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. If convicted, Ms. Moore would face a possible life sentence.


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