Woman charged in 4-year-old's murder after child found with homemade stitches, burns and broken bones

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- The caretaker of a 4-year-old child was charged with murder on Tuesday in what was described as "potentially one of the worst cases of child abuse anyone has ever seen."

Samilya Brown, 38, is charged with murder, endangering the welfare of a child and other related charges in the death of 4-year-old Zya Singleton.

During a news conference on Tuesday, officials said the child had been abused for years and was found with homemade stitches in her mouth, burns on her arm and leg, broken bones, open wounds, bite marks and puncture wounds.

On Oct. 30, authorities were called to the reports of a fall at a home. Brown originally said Zya had fallen out of a second-story window while playing with a cat. But authorities said they quickly realized that was not the case.

"When police arrived she was in a second-floor bathroom being put in cold water," said Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey.

Watch: Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner announces charges in death of 4-year-old
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Philadelphia DA announces homicide charges in death of 4-year-old girl during a press conference on November 12, 2019.

Zya was rushed to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital but was transferred to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She died from complications from those injuries on Nov. 3.

"We believe there was no fall," Lightsey said.

"This is a horrific, heartbreaking case of abuse, neglect, and murder of an innocent, defenseless child," District Attorney Larry Krasner said.

Jasmine Singleton, Zya's biological mother, said she could barely recognize her daughter at the hospital.

"She had no nose, all of this was gone. All you saw was the frame," said Singleton.

Officials said they have a notarized letter from 2016 giving custody of Zya to Brown by the girl's biological mother.

Singleton says Department of Human Services deemed her home unfit for her children, so she turned to her stepbrother's significant other for help.

"I looked at her and said, 'Can you take my daughter until I got proper housing' because I thought that was the best thing. Prior to that, she always looked after Zya because she was getting paid through CCIS to be a child care provider," said Singleton.

What's not immediately clear is if DHS did a background check on Brown, or if they checked in on Zya at all. Another question is was anyone else living in the home aware of what was happening.

Singleton says she had no idea the abuse was happening.

"Never. If there was ever a thought this girl was abusing my kid, you would have never got my kid," she said.

Apparently Brown never admitted any wrongdoing, but as a self-described home health provider, she did admit to putting the sutures and stitches in herself on Zya.

"I would not use the word care. (Brown) abused her, stitched her up, abused her again, stitched her up," Lightsey said. "She burnt her with some kind of scalding liquid and patched her up at home."

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