By Joe Anuta
A 29-year-old Pomonok woman was formally charged with manslaughter after the Queens district attorney released the results of an autopsy indicating her 2-year-old son was strangled to death, but the woman’s family said the charges were part of a setup.
On Friday at about 3:30 p.m. inside a Pomonok apartment, toddler Izayah Hall was screaming, crying and kicking when his mother, 29-year-old Afriyie Gaspard, put her hands around the child’s neck and squeezed it for about a minute until he stopped crying, according to DA Richard Brown.
Gaspard told police that her son then fell to the floor on his hands and knees and began gasping for air, at which point she picked him up and, seeing that his eyes were open, roughly put him down on his bed, the DA said.
Izayah continued to make gurgling noises in his bed, and when Gaspard checked back 45 minutes later, the boy’s eyes were partially open and he was unresponsive, the DA said.
EMS took the 2-year-old to New York Hospital Queens, where he was pronounced dead, according to police, and Gaspard was arrested Monday.
She was charged with of manslaughter, assault, strangulation and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the DA, and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
The 29-year-old’s family contends the mother of six children, ranging in age from less than a year to possibly 8, would never have harmed her child.
“What the NYPD did with my sister is completely unfair,” said Gaspard’s older sister Ebboni, who said police officers forced a confession out of her sister.
Ebboni Gaspard described her younger sister as an angel who would never injure her children and was adverse to her sisters even killing insects.
“My sister is a saint,” Ebboni Gaspard said. “She has walked among us devils. That’s how I feel sometimes.”
All of Gaspard’s children had previously been in foster care, according to multiple relatives, who said she had recently regained custody of all of them.
Ebboni Gaspard said the other children often picked on Izayah and that she did not know what happened at the time of the incident, but her sister was in the kitchen making sandwiches for all of the siblings so they could play outside.
Another of Gaspard’s sisters, Stephanie, said that at one point the children might have been playing a game pretending Izayah was a dog by wrapping a cloth around his neck.
All five of Izayah’s siblings were taken in by the city Administration for Children’s Services, a spokeswoman said.
An autopsy from the city medical examiner’s office found oval bruises on each side of Izayah’s neck, hemorrhaging in his eyes and neck and bruises on the back of his head, which indicated manual strangulation and was consistent with what Gaspard told authorities, according to the district attorney.
The sisters both said they and other relatives have to bury Izayah, try to get his brothers and sisters out of the city’s custody and try to prove Gaspard’s innocence, but police and city officials have not made it easy.
“I know my sister and I know she is being held unjustly,” Ebboni Gaspard said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.