Girl, five, 'drowned crying boy'
Police in the US are treating the death of an 18-month-old boy who drowned in a bathtub as a potential homicide after a five-year-old girl told social workers that she held him under the water to stop his crying.
Kansas City officers said the girl, who was left with other children in the care of a teenager, was considered a possible suspect in the toddler's death last week, raising complicated legal questions about how a court could proceed with a case against such a young suspect.
Bart Lubow, the director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E Casey Foundation, a national child advocacy organisation based in Baltimore, said a five-year-old is incapable of forming intent, and is not likely even to know what drowning means.
"You can imagine a child responding to other children's crying by saying, 'I know how to stop that.' But the notion that there was intent there is silly," Mr Lubow said. "For a five-year-old, this is well beyond the pale of what our criminal or delinquency laws are intended to address."
He said the case should proceed with a "very child-centered approach."
Police said the five-year-old was not arrested, and the case was referred to the Jackson County's family courts division.
Police originally ruled the death accidental, but said that changed after social workers reported that the girl told them she brought the toddler into the bathroom and drowned him.
"The five-year-old became upset when the child wouldn't stop crying and took the two-year-old into the bathroom and drowned him," said Officer Darin Snapp, a spokesman for the Kansas City Police Department. He said the two children were related, but it was unclear exactly how.
"As of right now yes, from her statement, she is a possible suspect," Officer Snapp said.
The children had been left along with others under the supervision of a teenager while an adult in the home went to pick up the father of the 18-month-old, Officer Snapp said. He said the father had recently arrived in Kansas City to take the infant back to their home in St Louis. It was unclear how long the adult was out of the home.