Prosecutors say a babysitter charged with the murder of an infant confessed to punching the child because he would not stop crying, but relatives insist she could not have hurt the baby and is innocent.
Willa Wickerson, 56, of the 6700 block of South Parnell Avenue, is charged in the death of one-month-old Timothy Harmon. Her family says she is related to the baby’s family.
Prosecutors said the baby was in good health when his parents went to work and left him in the care of Wickerson about 8:30 a.m. Dec. 7 in the 6600 block of South Racine. He began crying and, after 15 minutes, Wickerson became “irate” and punched the child with a closed fist in the stomach and then threw him down onto a car seat, according to prosecutors.
About 2 p.m. Wickerson realized Timothy was unresponsive and called the baby’s mother to tell her he was not breathing. She did not call 911 but Timothy’s mother did, prosecutors said.
When paramedics got there he was still unresponsive so he was intubated and taken to St. Bernard Hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy the next day determined Timothy died of injuries from child abuse, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. His death was ruled a homicide.
In a videotaped confession, Wickerson admitted becoming upset with the baby and demonstrated to the detectives how she punched and threw a 44-day old baby onto a car seat, prosecutors said.
Wickerson has no criminal background and is scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 4.
A 19-year-old female relative of Wickerson said she suffers from a mental disability.
“If you talk to her for a short period of time you can see yourself that she is kind of special,” the relative said.
Another relative, Wickerson’s niece Consuela Allen, 34, said Wickerson is the kind of person who always wants to please others and sometimes get taken advantage of because of that.
“I can’t stop crying, this is not sitting well with me,” said Allen. “My auntie is not that kind of person. She could not have done this.”
Wickerson’s sister, Theresa Wickerson, described her as “the first person you call when you need a babysitter” and someone who babysat “all the time.”
Wickerson said no one ever had a problem with her child care skills.
“I have seen her with crying babies and I have never, ever, ever seen her be mad at a baby,” Wickerson said.
Theresa Wickerson said her sister is also someone who is easy to please and “easy to manipulate.”
“She doesn’t have a lot of social skills; she is very easy to please. “You could get her to say she killed JFK if you told her enough.”
“Everyone in the family stands behind her,” said her sister.
Lance Wells, her former brother in-law, said he was “devastated” when he learned Friday morning of the accusations against Wickerson, when a friend called. Wells is divorced from Wickerson’s sister but still remains “lifelong” friends with Wickerson and her family members.
“She’s not a violent person in the least bit,” said Wells, who was reached by phone at his Atlanta, Georgia home. “She would not step on a roach, she would not even kill an ant,” Wells said.
Wickerson, who’s been a babysitter and homemaker for many years, raised three kids of her own and loves children, she said.
“She’s not capable of this.”
“This is not something she would do at all. I’m very, very very shocked,” Wells said. “This is a misunderstanding. This is not her.”
Timothy’s mother was reached by phone Friday afternoon after attending the baby’s funeral.
“We are grieving. Justice has been served,’’ she said.
Cook County Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil set bail at $1 million during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building Friday.
There is a discrepency here.
Wickerson according to her relatives, is not a violent person.
But she, by her own admission, punched a one month-old baby in the stomach.
Wickerson’s sister said that she “babysat all of the time.”
How many kids has she beaten who didn’t die?
Wickerson has three kids.
How many ass-kickings did they take when they wouldn’t stop crying?