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Mom charged after baby's death 'very loving,' lawyer says

November 28, 2012 | 11:52 am

The 21-year-old mother charged with child abuse after her 5-week-old infant died of internal injuries is "very loving, very caring, very soft-spoken," her attorney said this week.

Elizabeth Carter, 21, was arrested shortly after her daughter, Violet Wojcik, was taken off life support. The father, 19-year-old Matthew Wojcik, was arrested nearly a month earlier on suspicion of felony child abuse — the day after their 5-week-old infant was brought to the hospital with broken bones.

He has been charged with murder and felony child abuse causing death and remains in custody. Carter faces one felony count of child abuse for allegedly permitting the infant to “be inflicted with unjustifiable physical pain and mental suffering,” according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court criminal complaint. She was released after posting $130,000 bail.

A woman who answered the phone at Carter’s home declined to comment, but her attorney, Paul Geller,  told the Burbank Leader on Monday that Carter was not complicit in the baby's death.

“She certainly attended to the baby’s health when she realized there was a problem,” Geller said. “She’s come across to me as very genuine, very loving, very caring, very soft-spoken.”

Facebook photos revealed a seemingly happy couple who both graduated from Glendale High School. Last year, they visited Washington to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, bowled with friends and hiked at the Deschutes River with Carter’s grandparents. 

In a photo caption, Carter referred to Wojcik as the “lovee of my lifeee.”

But on Oct. 23, the couple’s baby, Violet, was admitted to a local hospital with broken bones and injuries that appeared to be a result of child abuse, prompting hospital employees to contact Burbank police.

After interviewing hospital staff and parents, police arrested Matthew Wojcik.

Two days later, he pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony child abuse — charges that have since been amended to murder, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Carter, on the other hand, wasn’t arrested until nearly a month later. 

“I’m a little surprised that she was arrested so late in the investigation,” Geller said. “If the prosecutors felt that she had contributed to the endangerment of the child, I don’t know why it took so long for her to be formally arrested.”

Burbank Police Lt. Eddie Ruiz said the baby was “shaken very hard, which caused internal injuries." She was taken off life support Nov. 9.

“[Carter] had to go through an extremely difficult emotional decision to take the baby off life support,” Geller said. “To now project her to prosecution after having to deal with that emotional decision I think is questionable.”

A co-worker at Lowe's Home Improvement in Burbank said Carter seemed like a doting and loving mother and brought her baby to the store a few weeks after she was born to show her off.

Carter’s co-worker said the young mother had disclosed her child’s hospitalization and death, but did not reveal details. 

 “She said she didn’t want to discuss it. I said, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ ” Carter’s co-worker said. “She said, ‘Thank you, please pray for my baby.’ ”

The Lowe’s employee was unaware Monday of the child abuse charges against Carter, but had advised Carter over the weekend via text message and email to seek employee relief from Lowe’s for Violet’s funeral.

“She was saying her heart was broken and she was having trouble getting out of the bed,” the employee said. “I asked her how [Wojcik] was holding up and she said he was having trouble but he was hanging in.”

If convicted, Wojcik faces up to life in state prison. Carter faces up to 10 years in state prison if convicted, according to the criminal complaint.


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-- Alene Tchekmedyian, Times Community News