NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – In a preliminary hearing Wednesday, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office in Norfolk presented inconsistent information found in the evidence and testimony of the woman who is charged with murdering a toddler back in May.
Emily DeFries, 24, told police she was babysitting the 20-month-old victim and two other children May 18 at a home in the 7000 block of Gregory Drive, according to officers. Authorities said she told them she periodically checked on the little girl, Anna Bell, who had been sleeping upstairs. She claimed she found the victim at the bottom of the stairs then called 911.
She is the fiancée of Anna Bell’s father, said commonwealth attorney’s office spokeswoman Amanda Howie.
Howie said her office presented at the Sept. 24 preliminary hearing that Anna Bell’s injuries are not consistent with falling down the stairs, which were carpeted, and that the skull fractures and broken arm are the result of shaking and slamming. The charge of second degree was certified to the grand jury, which next meets Oct. 1.
DeFries was arraigned May 21 in Norfolk. WAVY News’ Lex Gray reported DeFries cried as the charge against her was read.
The victim was transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. May 18. The Medical Examiner’s office determined the child died from blunt force trauma and ruled the case a homicide.
Neighbor Beverly Broadus saw medics carrying the child to the ambulance. Disturbed by what she saw, Broadus walked over to the home to ask what was wrong.
“She seemed to be upset. She was crying, trying to hold it together, for the most part,” said Broadus, describing DeFries’ demeanor. “She seemed to be pretty upset.”
Broadus said DeFries told her the same story she told police.
“She said the child fell down the steps, and I gave her a hug and told her my mom lives across the street and if she needed anything to knock on the door,” Broadus said, promising to return to check on the child. “I did come back the next day and nobody came to the door.”
Neighbors say the military couple had just moved in within the last few months. Posts on Defries’ Facebook page say she just got engaged Sunday — the same day she called 911, the same day the toddler died.
“As a parent, my heart goes out to them, to the parents of the toddler,” said Reymita Smith, a neighbor. “That’s a very sad situation. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”