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5-Year-Old Could Face Murder Charge in Drowning Death of Crying Toddler

Burke/Triolo Productions/Comstock/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) Kansas City police are trying to determine whether to charge a 5-year-old girl with murder after she admitted that she dragged a crying toddler into a bathtub and held him under water until he stopped crying.

"I've been in law enforcement for 20 years and it's the youngest suspect I can remember," police spokesman Darin Snapp said. "It's extremely rare."

The girl, who is not being identified because of her age, was left with 18-month-old Jermane Johnson Jr. on June 3 along with two other children and a 16-year-old girl who was supposed to be looking after them. The teenager had fallen asleep, police said.

Police originally ruled the death an accident, but it turned into a potential homicide investigation after the 5-year-old told social workers that she held 18-month-old Johnson under water to stop his crying.

She told social workers that she dragged Johnson into the tub, still full of water from when the children took baths earlier that evening, police said.

Police were called to the drowning just before midnight Friday, when the adults returned home and found the boy dead.

"As of right now yes, from her statement, she is a possible suspect," Snapp said.
Snapp said a final decision on how to handle the case will be made by prosecutors after the medical examiner's report is released, a process that could take up to eight weeks.

The victim's family has taken to Facebook to express its grief and issue a plea for donations in the infant's honor.

The highly unusual case was referred to the Jackson County's family courts division and the girl has not been arrested, but she remains a person of interest to police.

Officials are also looking into the welfare of other children in the home and the decision to leave the children alone Friday, according to Snapp. The 16-year-old left in charge of the children reportedly had mental disabilities.

An adult left the children in the care of the teenager in order to travel to a bus station to pick up a relative.

The ABC News affiliate in Kansas City, KMBC-9, spoke to neighbors near the red-brick home where the drowning occurred, one of whom said the family was nice, but that she had experienced troubles with the young girl prior to the drowning.

"She would throw rocks and sticks at them," neighbor Patricia Lewis told KMBC, referring to her small dogs. "They'd get real upset with her."

Others expressed sadness that the death occurred, and horror that a 5-year-old may now face charges.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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