PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The homicide investigation into the death of 4-year-old Zya Singleton in the Francisville section of the city has led to murder charges against her primary caretaker. Prosecutors say the guardian, 38-year-old Samilya Brown, lied and reported the girl fell from a second-story window on the 1700 block of Folsom Street last month, however, investigators determined the child died as a result of horrific child abuse sustained over the last two years at the hands of Brown.
“At CHOP it became clear that the stated reason for the injuries, which was falling from a second-floor window, simply did not match up to the injuries on Zya’s body. Zya was missing almost the entire part of her lip up through her nose. That was a healing injury that was never treated by any doctor or hospital,” Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Chesley Lightsey said.
“In fact, there were homemade stitches in her mouth. Zya was burned over significant portions of her left arm and her left thigh. Those had healed at home. She had never had any medical treatment for that other than what was administered in the home. Zya had broken bones in her arms that appear to be potentially from some kind of restraint. She also had open wounds on her head; some of them had homemade stitches.”
There was also evidence of bite marks, cigarette burns, puncture wounds and signs of malnourishment.
Prosecutors say Brown admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia staff that she placed sutures on Zya’s body herself.
The medical examiner determined Zya died from sepsis due to the result of medical procedures conducted by non-medical personnel, blunt impact and thermal injuries.
It appears the young girl had been kept inside the home for years and the last known picture of her dates back to October of 2017.
“I would say any average person would look at this and think this is potentially one of the worst cases of child abuse that anyone’s ever seen,” Lightsey said. “I really believe she was sort of lost to all of us. No one knew what was happening in that house but the people in the house.”
Brown called 911 on Oct. 30 and reported Zya had fallen out of a window while playing with their cat. However, when police arrived, Brown was with Zya in the bathroom, putting cold water on her. Zya was pronounced dead on Nov. 3.
Prosecutors say Zya was voluntarily given to Brown by her biological mother who could not take care of the child and Brown has been the primary caretaker for most, if not all, of Zya’s life. Four other minor children, ranging in age from 2 to 13 years old, lived in the house at the time. They have been placed with their biological fathers and it does not appear that those children were abused.
Suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect can be reported to the Philadelphia Police at 215-686-8477/TIPS, to the District Attorney’s Office at 215-686-9608, to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services at 215-683-6100, or to the Pennsylvania ChildLine at 800-932-0313.
Stay with CBSPhilly.com for this developing story.