MCDONOUGH, Ga. — One of the police officers who questioned Jennifer Rosenbaum after the death of 2-year-old Laila Daniel took the stand in the murder trial against the foster parents on Friday.
Jennifer and Joseph Rosenbaum were foster parents to Laila Daniel and her older sister Millie in the fall of 2015. Jennifer said Laila died after choking on a piece of chicken. Prosecutors say she died from abuse at the hands of the Rosenbaums. The couple is facing 49 charges including murder and assault.
Jennifer Rosenbaum's police interview was shown in court on Friday. In it, Rosenbaum is seen sitting next to her lawyer and the two officers conducting the questioning. She was not under arrest and the interview was done voluntarily. Officers asked about the details leading up to the 2-year-old’s death in their home on Nov. 17, 2015. At one point during the interview, Rosenbaum broke down while answering questions.
"What we have at this point from the medical (inaudible)… they’re saying Laila died from non-accidental trauma or inflicted injuries. And from your account (inaudible) can you tell me how these injuries," the detective said.
At that point, Jennifer Rosenbaum began crying. Her attorney asked for a break and the officers left the room.
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PHOTOS: Laila Marie Daniel
After the videotape of the police interview was shown, lawyers questioned Detective Aris Thompson with the Henry County police. He was one of the officers who conducted the interview and subsequent investigation into Laila’s death.
Thompson also watched Millie’s forensic interview, which was done the day after Laila died. Prosecutors asked the detective what Laila’s sister said about her time living with the Rosenbaums.
“She (Millie) did disclose how whenever Jennifer gets mad at them sometimes she snatches them or grabs them by the arm and holds them up by their arms,” testified Detective Thompson. “She made mention of... I want to say it was Laila… being kicked one time. I think that was it.”
Corinne Mull, the lawyer for the Rosenbaums, spent a lot of time questioning Detective Thompson about his interviews with witnesses in the case. He referred to his reports when answering.
Mull: Nowhere in these statements does it say anything about Joseph (Rosenbaum) beating Millie on the back?
Mull: Or Jennifer slinging children around, or up and down the stairs, when she was drunk.
Another Dept. of Family and Child Services (DFCS) worker took the stand Friday morning.
Emmanuella Arnaud-Carr told the court she was with Jennifer in the hospital after she’ been told Laila was dead.
“Initially she seemed pretty calm. She couldn’t cry. She was in shock,” Arnaud-Carr testified. “He (Joseph Rosenbaum) was crying. He was distraught.”
Forensic interview with Millie, Laila’s sister
Before the lunch break Friday, prosecutors showed the forensic interview with Millie done the day after her sister died. It lasted about 30 minutes and began with a trained counselor escorting the little girl into a comfortable room and drawing pictures with her.
Millie acted like the typical 4-year-old she was at the time of the interview. She waved at the camera once and asked the interviewer to, "Look at my picture.”
During the interview, without prompting, Millie volunteered that her sister had died.
Tori Roberson (counselor): Where do you live? Do you live in an apartment? A house?
Millie: I live in a house with my mommy and daddy. (pause) My sister died.
Roberson: How did she die?
Millie: She was choking on a chicken tender.
Roberson later asked what her parents ate and Millie responded, “They just eat grown-up food.”
Millie showed the bruise she had on her elbow and said she’d gotten it while doing gymnastics. She said she didn’t know how she got the bruise on her hip.
Millie told the counselor she was upstairs playing in her room when Laila died. They’d just finished eating dinner and she was getting ready to go somewhere with Jennifer Rosenbaum when it happened.
Friday afternoon, the court viewed another interview police did with Millie. This was done shortly after Christmas, 2015. That would have been a little more than a month after Laila died.
During the interview, Millie told police Jennifer twisted her arm “2 or 3 times” and it hurt. She also told police Jennifer would spank her with a belt and would “hold her (Laila) by one arm when she came down the steps.” Millie indicated that all happened after the girls did something bad.
Next, Detectives turned their questioning from Jennifer to Joseph Rosenbaum.
Police: What about Mr. Joe?
Police: Did he ever do anything like that to you?
Police: What about Laila?
Also Friday afternoon, 16-year-old Khaia Lambert testified. She was the biological daughter of Patricia Lambert, the foster mother with whom Millie and Laila lived before they went to the Rosenbaums. It was the Lambert’s who took custody of Millie the night her sister died. Millie lived with the Lamberts for several months after that.
Khia Lambert testified Millie was excited to be back in the Lamberts home, though she was sad her sister died. Khaia relayed the first moments Millie came back to live with them on Nov. 17, 2015.
“The first thing she said was ‘Khaia, Khaia, Miss Jennifer killed Laila,’” testified Khia Lambert.
Khia is 16 now but was 11 or 12 when Millie came to live with them for the second time. She said Millie would, on occasion, talk about life at the Rosenbaums.
“One of the main things she said was how Miss Jennifer dragged Laila down the steps,” said Khia.
Prosecutors say they expect to wrap up their case by next week. After that, the defense will begin presenting its case.
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