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Published: Saturday, 12/11/2004

Mother found guilty of killing 3-year-old son

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

During her trial, Angela Berry was stoic, showing little emotion during testimony surrounding the circumstances of the death of her 3-year-old son.

Berry continued that demeanor yesterday, not reacting upon hearing the verdicts of a jury that found her guilty of killing and abusing Hassani Berry, who died after he was left for a long period in an unheated porch on a cold January night.

The jurors began deliberations late Thursday and reached their decisions about noon. They found Berry not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but guilty of the more serious offense of murder. She also was found guilty of two counts of child endangering.

Berry, 33, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison when she appears in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for sentencing on Dec. 27. The trial began Monday.

The defendant's father, Sylvester Berry, buried his head in his hands and sobbed as a bailiff announced the verdicts.

Afterward, he declined a request for an interview.

Hassani died Jan. 17 in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center after paramedics found his naked body on the floor of Berry's apartment at 1520 Elm St.

A core body temperature of 66 degrees - more than 30 degrees lower than the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees - was taken in the emergency room, causing police to question Berry's story that she found her son floating face up in the bathtub.

An autopsy revealed that Hassani didn't drown, but instead suffered hypothermia after being exposed to extremely cold temperatures.

Because there were no signs that the victim suffered frostbite, a condition that would have occurred if he had been outside in the snow, investigators looked inside the apartment, and even considered the possibility that Hassani was in the refrigerator.

The thermostat in the apartment was set at 75 degrees, which was too warm to cause the boy's body temperature to drop. Police focused on the enclosed, unheated porch off the living room that could be locked from inside the apartment.

"In that apartment, there are limited places where a child could have been placed in a cold environment for a long enough period, and we are talking about an hour or more to reach that low of a body temperature. We believe that enclosed porch was the likely place," said Jeff Lingo, an assistant county prosecutor.

"That victim was placed on that cold, unlit porch for at least an hour by the woman who was supposed to be protecting him and looking out for him," Mr. Lingo said.

Detective Elizabeth Kantura, the lead investigator in the case, testified that four days after Hassani's death, the daytime temperature in the porch was 26 degrees when the outside temperature was 16 degrees. The outside temperature on the night that Hassani died was about 18 degrees.

Mr. Lingo said he believed the verdict sent a strong message to the community that cruelty and abuse of children will not be tolerated.

"We think the jury listened carefully to the law and reached the right conclusion," Mr. Lingo said.

After she was taken from the courtroom, a tearful Berry proclaimed that she was not guilty of the crimes and did not kill her son.

Although she will be sentenced to life for the murder, Berry will be eligible for parole in 15 years. However, Judge Ronald Bowman could give her an additional 10 years for the child endangering convictions.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@the blade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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