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Jury to get case of mother accused of starving baby to death

Tanya Williams was failed by the system in son’s 2010 death, attorney told jury.

Tanya Williams, 32, is being held for trial in the starvation death of an infant.
Tanya Williams, 32, is being held for trial in the starvation death of an infant.Read more

THE PHILADELPHIA jury that will begin deliberating today over whether a homeless mother of six starved one of her children to death was confronted with dueling pictures of the baby yesterday.

On the one hand, a series of cellphone photographs and a video showed little Quasir Alexander surrounded by seemingly healthy and happy siblings and adult relatives as he sucked on bottles and pacifiers.

But on the other, Assistant District Attorney Peter Lim countered with what was likely the last picture of Quasir, taken shortly after the 2-month-old boy died at a city homeless shelter Dec. 23, 2010.

He was naked, lying on his back, mouth open, all skin and bones. His death was ruled a homicide due to starvation and dehydration.

"It is crystal clear," Lim said in his closing argument, that Tanya Williams made a conscious decision not to feed Quasir and his twin brother Quamir, who was hours from death when doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia saved his life.

"What could be more telling than this? You mean, she's telling you she didn't know he was dying?" Lim asked, gesturing to Quasir's death photo projected on a large screen.

When Williams' defense lawyer, Gregory Pagano, turned the projection off, Lim dashed across the courtroom to turn it back on.

Williams, 34, continually dabbed her eyes. She's in custody without bail, four of her children are in foster care, and Quamir has been adopted.

Williams is charged with murder and child endangerment in Quasir's death and with attempted murder and child endangerment for Quamir's injuries.

Pagano told the jury that Williams did not intentionally harm her sons. Rather, he said, she was a stressed, homeless mother who was repeatedly failed by the system that was supposed to help families like hers.

Doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania released her premature, 4-pound twins too early after their October 2010 births, the Department of Human Services prescribed the wrong level of care for the family and a caseworker from Lutheran Children and Family Service declared that Quasir was healthy just 36 hours before he died, Pagano said.

"If the educated and trained personnel assigned to her didn't notice, how could she?" he asked the jury.

In January 2011, Lutheran Children, a nonprofit that had a city contract to help the family, fired the caseworker and her supervisor.