PHILADELPHIA – Jurors hearing a case about the starvation death of a disabled teen saw photos Wednesday of the best and worst years of her life, from happy images of horseback riding to disturbing photos of the filthy, debris-strewn house where she later died.
School officials who knew Danieal Kelly during those periods painted very different portraits of the girl with cerebral palsy who authorities say died of hunger and neglect in 2006 at age 14 even though social service agencies were monitoring her family.
Her father, 40-year-old Daniel Kelly, is charged with child endangerment and accused of abandoning his daughter to her unfit mother's chaotic home in Philadelphia. He is being tried with two aid workers who were supposed to be checking on the girl.
In court Wednesday, teacher Lynn Levin testified that Danieal (pronounced Danielle) was "a delightful child" during the two years she taught her in Arizona beginning in 1999. Though the kindergartener was mentally delayed and needed a wheelchair, Danieal was social, motivated to learn and loved to sing — especially songs by country star Shania Twain, Levin said.
Prosecutors showed several pictures of a smiling girl at a classroom birthday party, on a therapeutic horseback ride and at a bowling alley.
"She seemed happy when she was in school," Levin said. "Her personality was just so sweet and endearing."
But Levin said the girl was also frequently absent and that she had to repeatedly ask Daniel Kelly to get new glasses and a bigger wheelchair for his daughter. She conceded under cross-examination that Danieal did eventually get the items; however, she also said the unexplained absences slowed the girl's progress and that no school district ever asked for Danieal's records after she left Phoenix.
Prosecutors also presented several documents bolstering their contention that it was not Daniel Kelly but his live-in girlfriend who tended to Danieal. The child's downward spiral — which would end in death at age 14 when she weighed 42 pounds — began after the couple split and the Kellys moved back to Philadelphia.
Daniel Kelly's lawyer, Earl Kauffman, had told jurors that Danieal had weighed 100 pounds in her father's care. He said his client was allowed visits with his son, but not with Danieal.
"He was never able to see his daughter, not because he didn't try," Kauffman said.
Danieal went to live with her mother and eight other children in a squalid, dilapidated home in the city's Parkside neighborhood in 2003. Her mother, Andrea Kelly, didn't attempt to enroll Danieal in school until March 2006, a few months before she died.
Wendy Galson, a psychologist with the Philadelphia school district, testified Wednesday that she went to Danieal's house to evaluate her needs in June 2006 because a caseworker who promised to help transport the girl to the meeting had not shown up.
Galson said Danieal was in a stroller, not a wheelchair, and appeared thin, small and contracted. She seemed to have almost no mobility and could not even turn the pages of a book — a far cry from the girl in the photos from Arizona, Galson said.
"The youngster that I saw had really deteriorated," Galson said. "She certainly wasn't smiling. She certainly wasn't singing."
Also Wednesday, jurors saw pictures of Danieal's house taken on the day she died by John Dougherty, a social worker with the city's Department of Human Services.
His images and testimony depicted a home with piles of trash and dirty clothes, doors that came unhinged, a broken oven and grease-stained walls in the kitchen. There were two mattresses and one bathroom for 10 people, Dougherty said.
Yet defense attorney Joshua Scarpello noted Wednesday that the Department of Human Services had received at least three calls about the mother's home from 2003 to 2004 but did not take action.
Scarpello represents Mickal Kamuvaka, 62, whose company MultiEthnic Behavioral Health Inc. had been hired by the city to monitor the family. Kamuvaka, who is already serving more than 17 years on a related fraud conviction in federal court, now faces state charges of perjury, forgery and involuntary manslaughter.
Also being tried with Daniel Kelly and Kamuvaka is caseworker Dana Poindexter, 54, charged with counts including child endangerment and perjury.
Andrea Kelly pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and is serving 20 to 40 years.