Rockaway Reels Over Death of a Toddler

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Rockaway’s residents have harbored many storms and heartbreaks, but the recent tragic death of three-year old Bella Edwards, has shaken the community once again. 

Since Bella was discovered and pronounced dead late evening, Monday, April 2, the community has been inundated with media outlets lined up outside the building on 1 Beach 105 Shore Front Rockaway, where Edwards resided on the sixth floor with her mom, Shamikaa Gonzalez, three-month-old little brother, and the alleged perpetrator, 32-year-old stepdad, Marc Jenkins.

Not many know exactly what transpired during the reported eight hours Bella was left home alone with Jenkins and her little brother, that ultimately culminated in the little girl being declared dead on Monday, but here are the facts:

In a statement, Queens District Attorney Brown said, “Jenkins was the sole adult in the apartment with Bella and her brother for about eight hours Monday. At approximately 6 p.m., the defendant called 911, and when emergency responders arrived, the little girl was unconscious and unresponsive. She was rushed to a nearby hospital (St. John’s in Far Rockaway), where she was pronounced dead. Preliminary results of the autopsy showed little Bella died as a result of blunt force trauma to her abdomen with other medical studies pending.” According to the NYPD, investigators are also trying to determine if the little girl was a victim of sexual abuse.

The Rockaway Times (RT) reached out to the NYPD for further clarification on why sexual abuse was suspected, the press officer stated, “The DOA (‘dead on arrival,’ a medical and crime term used to refer to a person who was already dead when EMTs or police arrived at a scene), had injuries to her lower body consistent with both physical and sexual abuse.”

The three-month-old boy, Logan, son of Gonzalez and Jenkins, was taken to the hospital to be evaluated. He was not injured.

After Gonzalez and Jenkins were both questioned at the 100th Precinct, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced the next day on Tuesday, April 3, that “[Jenkins] is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on a complaint charging him with second-degree depraved murder and first-degree depraved assault. Note that in U.S. law, depraved murder, also known as depraved-indifference murder, is a type of murder where an individual acts with a "depraved indifference" to human life and where such act results in a death, despite that individual not explicitly intending to kill. If convicted, Jenkins faces up to 25 years to life in prison. Jenkins was last seen being escorted from the 107th Precinct in Flushing on Tuesday night.

This isn’t Jenkins’ first offense. According to the NYPD, Jenkins, a newcomer to the Rockaway community, “has three prior arrests, two of which are sealed.” One of which was in 2004, when he was convicted of attempted murder in the Bronx, for which it is reported that he was incarcerated for eight years. The RT reached out both to the NYS departments of Corrections and Probation for information on his probation term and record, but as of press time, did not received a response.

The other question posed is, were there any reported incidents in the Rockaway Park home? The NYPD said, “Since 2017, there was one prior domestic (911) call to that location involving a dispute between Gonzalez and Jenkins.”

In a Facebook post on Monday night, Gonzalez had written, “Bella, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to protect you. This feels like a bad dream I can’t wake up from. This feels like a bad dream I can’t wake up from. You was loved by everyone and shared so many funny memories. I’m going to miss all the times you kissed and hugged me everyday. Please watch over me, Logan [Bella’s baby brother] and the family. We all love you so much!” The post has since been removed.

On Tuesday night, the NYPD’s presence was strong around the building with officers standing in front the family’s apartment door still decorated from Easter. The building’s residents had also started a budding memorial for Bella with flowers, candles and pictures.

Neighbors were shocked to hear the horrific news. As one long-time resident in the building who knew Bella’s mom when she herself was a toddler said, “I’ve lived here for over 20 years and I knew Bella’s mom and grandmom quite well. They seemed like a happy, decent family. We would share small talk in the laundry room, hallway and elevator. All I know is that Bella’s mom had recently moved out from her mother’s and got her own apartment in this same building. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors? The important thing is for us as a community to band together and show our love for Bella. Can you imagine the heartbreak the family is facing? Instead of slamming the family on Facebook and making threats, we need to come out as a community and show our love for Bella, and other little defenseless one like her. Rockaway is a strong community full of compassion. This is one time we really need to come out and show it.”

As we went to press, a memorial, announced by Gonzalez, was scheduled to be held in front of the building for Bella at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4.

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