A caregiver with a criminal record suffocated a 22-month-old girl who was in her care, then carried her lifeless body from an Ogontz apartment to a nearby park and partially buried her in a shallow grave, police said Thursday.
Nyishia Corbitt, 33, was arrested Wednesday and charged with murder. She confessed to killing Alina Barnes, and surveillance video showed her carrying the dead toddler from the apartment and returning without her, police said. The girl's body was recovered in Kemble Park on Tuesday morning.
"It's one of the worst things I've seen," Philadelphia Homicide Capt. John Ryan said at a news conference Thursday morning. "Digging up a 2-year-old in a park."
The case started to come together for police Monday, when Corbitt confided to her mother that Alina was missing, and the mother contacted police, Ryan said.
"Ms. Corbitt's mom did the right thing and contacted the police," Ryan said, adding that a search Tuesday morning by the Special Victims Unit, patrol officers, and a K-9 unit led to the discovery of the child's body in the park off 16th Street and Olney Avenue, near Central High School.
"She had led us to where the body was," Ryan said of Corbitt. "She was obviously having problems, no doubt, dealing with what had happened."
Corbitt's criminal record shows at least four prior arrests, including convictions in 2005 for theft in Philadelphia and for forgery in Montgomery County, both of which resulted in probationary sentences.
She was caring for Alina in the absence of the child's mother, Brooke Barnes, who has been jailed in Montgomery County since Oct. 2 on retail theft charges, Ryan said. Alina's mother has three prior arrests for narcotics and theft, police said.
The child's father, an Uber and Lyft driver from West Philadelphia, is cooperating with the investigation, Ryan said. He and Corbitt are parents of two other children, ages 4 and 5, who are in the care of Corbitt's mother, Ryan said.
"I doubt the father foresaw this happening," he said. "I mean, who would think that anyone would do this to a child?"
Surveillance video from Oct. 9 captured Corbitt exiting an apartment in the 5600 block of Ogontz Avenue where she was staying with Alina. Police received the call from Corbitt's mother on Monday, and Corbitt led them to Alina's remains the next morning, Ryan said. Corbitt had been taking care of Alina for several weeks, he said.
"It's a terrible tragedy for a child to meet an end such as this. This shouldn't have happened," said Ryan, who declined to provide details about what Corbitt told detectives. "She's very distraught."
The apartment from which Corbitt was filmed carrying Alina's body in a carrier belonged to a relative of Corbitt's, Ryan said. The child's father did not live with Corbitt, he said.
Corbitt also is charged with possession of an instrument of a crime, filing a false report, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and abuse of a corpse. She was ordered to be held without bail at a hearing Thursday, according to court records. A preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 7.