Clinton Township grandmother
gets life in prison in child's drowning
By Christina Hall - Detroit Free Press
June 12, 2013
Tobia’s hair was black.
were blue. To his parents, Bashar and Amelia Alkasmikha, he is an
angel — an angel who didn’t get justice in his forcible drowning
more than three years ago.
“He made all
our dreams come true. He was a perfect son,” Amelia Alkasmikha,
35, tearfully said before her mother, Terry Borgia, was sentenced
to life in prison without parole today in Macomb County Circuit
Court in DeAngelo’s 2010 death. “We still don’t really know what
happened to you, but we still feel that grandma is covering up for
tears, Bashar Alkasmikha, 34, agreed, telling the court that
authorities don’t have the right person and “we just want justice
for our son."
parents now believe the boy’s aunt, Tonina Borgia — the only other
adult in the Clinton Township apartment when 4-year-old DeAngelo
died — committed the crime. Prosecutors have said there is no
evidence to charge her and that Terry Borgia admitted putting the
sleeping, pajama-clad boy in her bathtub filled with water and
left him unattended, but didn’t admit to drowning him.
didn’t say what happened to DeAngelo when she spoke today during
the emotional proceeding, simply telling her family that she loves
“I love all
my children. I love DeAngelo very much,” she said, to which Bashar
Alkasmikha said: “Tell us the truth.”
then thanked everyone who handled her case.
64-year-old, jail-garb-clad grandmother had four trials — three of
which ended in mistrials — before a jury convicted her of felony
murder and first-degree child abuse in March.
County Circuit Judge Peter Maceroni, who handled the case the
entire time, denied a defense motion for a new trial before
sentencing Terry Borgia.
said that in 23 years on the bench, this was “by far, the most
difficult sentence I ever had to impose,” pausing several times
during his comments.
said there was no direct evidence, just circumstantial evidence.
He said “although the jury saw it one way, case law says even if
the court feels the other way, you can’t do anything about it.”
attorney Mark Haddad said he took Maceroni’s comments to mean that
the judge doesn’t believe Terry Borgia is guilty.
continues to believe Terry Borgia is covering for her daughter,
Tonina Borgia, and that she has a good chance when her case is
parents said that during a jail visit, Terry Borgia mouthed or
implied that it was Tonina Borgia, not her, who committed the
sentencing, DeAngelo’s family said police should have arrested
Terry and Tonina Borgia after DeAngelo’s death.
Alkasmikha said she wished her mother, who helped her deliver
DeAngelo, said more about what happened during her sentencing,
which brought a difficult end to the lengthy and unusual case.
“And now my
mom’s going to prison for the rest of her life,” she said, adding:
“We love our son. He’s our everything."
Grandmother found guilty in
But after 3 mistrials, boy's mom still has
doubts about who killed her son
By Christina Hall
- Detroit Free Press
March 12, 2013
mistrials, Amelia Alkasmikha welcomed a guilty verdict Monday in
the drowning death of her 4-year-old son.
Alkasmikha says doubts remain in her mind whether her mother,
Terry Borgia -- who was convicted by a jury of felony murder and
first-degree child abuse -- forcibly drowned the boy in a bathtub
in her Clinton Township apartment three years ago or if it was her
younger sister who committed the crime.
"At least my
son got justice," Alkasmikha, 34, of Sterling Heights said by
phone after the verdict in Macomb County Circuit Court. "I still
would like to find out more information and find out who really
did this because I'm confused about the whole thing."
Borgia, 63, and her youngest daughter, Tonina Borgia, 28, were the
only adults in their apartment when DeAngelo Tobia drowned by
forcible submersion in January 2010, investigators said.
told police she put the pajama-clad, sleeping boy in her bathtub
filled with water and left him unattended, but didn't say she
drowned him. She didn't call 911 and didn't help with CPR.
trial, defense attorney Mark Haddad contended that Terry Borgia
was covering up for Tonina Borgia, who authorities said called 911
and performed CPR on the boy. She also told police six different
stories about how the boy died, even implicating herself.
prosecutors have said there was no evidence to charge Tonina
Borgia, who failed to appear to testify for the prosecution during
the trial last week. A transcript from her testimony at the last
trial in December, which ended in a mistrial when the jury
deadlocked, was read instead. In that testimony, Tonina Borgia
said she didn't have anything to do with the drowning and denied
that her mother was covering up for her.
is to be sentenced April 17 to life in prison. The jury
deliberated about six hours Friday and Monday after a three-day
showed no emotion when the verdict was read. She was remanded to
the county jail without bond.
satisfied with the jury's verdict. It's been a long time in the
making," Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo said.
who has represented Borgia through all four trials, said he was
the defendant is very disappointed even though she got her death
wish," Haddad said. "Personally, I think (Terry Borgia's)
told the jury during closing arguments that his client is
"perfectly happy to fall on the sword to spare her daughter."
he intends to file a motion for a new trial unless Terry Borgia
convinces him otherwise after what he said was an inappropriate
comment made by Cataldo during the prosecution's closing
arguments. Cataldo had said if it were true that Borgia was
covering up for her daughter, she would have pleaded guilty. The
jury was instructed to disregard Cataldo's comment.
said if her mother covered up for her sister, she should have said
where it hurts the most," she said. "For me, I feel whatever has
happened to my son, someone should be charged and should go to
prison for the rest of their life. Now my mother's gonna be in
there for life. I guess that's what she chose. We all know in our
hearts she's covering up for her daughter."
Alkasmikha said that she believes her mother should go to prison
whether she killed her son or not because she was one of only two
adults in the home when DeAngelo died.
said that she thinks her sister should go to prison, too, but
doesn't believe she will ever be charged.
said she doesn't want to go through another trial with her mother.
too hard on us. It's just too hard on me, watching videos of
Tonina talking, saying she killed my son and stuff; hearing my mom
talk about my son. It's too painful to go through again."
Daughter testifies in defense
of Terry Borgia in drowning of grandson
By Christina Hall
- Detroit Free Press
March 8, 2013
helped deliver her grandson DeAngelo Tobia in the hospital four
years before she was accused of drowning him in a tub full of
water in her Clinton Township apartment.
Vicki Borgia, one of Terry Borgia’s three daughters, told a Macomb
County Circuit Court jury this morning during testimony on behalf
of her mother, who is accused in DeAngelo’s death in 2010.
testified that she did not believe her 63-year-old mother killed
DeAngelo, who was 4 years old when he died in January 2010.
testified that she believed someone else killed her nephew and
that her mother was capable of taking responsibility to protect
one of her sisters, Tonina Borgia.
Terry Borgia were the only adults in the apartment when DeAngelo
died. Tonina Borgia called 911 and performed CPR on her nephew.
contends that Terry Borgia is covering up for Tonina Borgia, but
the prosecution has said there is no evidence to charge Tonina
testified that Terry Borgia was a good mother and grandmother and
that her own children wanted to stay with her. She testified that
Tonina Borgia had psychological problems and anger issues, was
“off the wall” sometimes and called her mother a “white Nazi.”
testified that Tonina Borgia confessed to her that she killed
their nephew, but her sister wasn’t on her medications at the time
of the admission while the two were riding in a car together
around the summer of 2010.
Borgia was asked if she thought that either her mother or Tonina
Borgia would have been capable of killing her young nephew before
the day he died, she said, “No, I don’t.”
is charged with felony murder, first-degree child abuse and
involuntary manslaughter in DeAngelo’s death. She did not testify.
Borgia was expected to testify for the prosecution on Thursday,
but she failed to appear. The transcript from her testimony in the
last trial, which ended in a mistrial in December when the jury
deadlocked, was read for this jury.
This is the
fourth trial for Terry Borgia after three mistrials.
arguments are set for 1 p.m. with the jury expected to start
deliberations this afternoon.
Mistrial declared in Clinton
Township grandson drowning case
By Chad Selweski - TheNewsHerald.com
June 9, 2012
In a murder case that has taken many twists and
turns, a sudden mistrial was declared on Friday in the judicial
proceedings for a Clinton Township grandmother accused of drowning
her 4-year-old son in a bathtub.
Macomb Circuit Judge Peter Maceroni reluctantly
halted the first-degree murder trial for Terry Borgia after the
attorneys in the case realized that the Clinton Township police
erred by obtaining a search warrant under false pretenses. The
warrant was used by a Clinton Township detective to obtain a
jailhouse confession from Borgia, a recording of which had been
played to the jury.
In the coming weeks, a special hearing will be
conducted by Maceroni to determine how and why the police botched
the warrant process. After that issue is resolved, the county
Prosecutor’s Office will seek a new trial.
In the meantime, Maceroni will take under
advisement a motion by defense attorney Mark Haddad to release
Borgia from the Macomb County Jail on a personal bond and put her
on a tether. Borgia, 62, has spent 18 months in a mental health
facility and nearly a year in jail since the January, 2010 death
of her grandson, DeAngelo Tobia.
Her oldest daughter told the judge she would gladly provide a home
for her mother while she awaits a new trial.
“I have two daughters, ages 13 and 9, who love their grandma more
than anything in the world. And they don’t want her to stay in the
Macomb County Jail,” she said, trying to hold back tears. “This is
While her daughters believe the drowning was an accident, Borgia
has allegedly admitted several times to killing the boy.
The case has featured an unusual timeline: On Jan. 11, 2010, the
drowning occurred while Borgia was babysitting the 4-year-old at
her Clinton Township apartment, and Borgia was quickly arrested;
she was initially deemed to be incompetent to stand trial and sent
to a mental health facility; she was eventually diagnosed as
capable of facing trial at a special judicial proceeding and an
insanity defense was rejected; in February she pleaded no contest
to the first-degree murder charge, though it brings a mandatory
life sentence; about a month later, Borgia withdrew the plea; the
trial finally began on Wednesday and, just two days later, came to
a sudden halt.
Attorneys on both sides said the mistake made by the police came
when Detective William Furno sought a warrant to photograph at the
jail bruises on Borgia’s arms, which investigators believe show
signs that the boy tried to fight his way free from her before he
In seeking the warrant, Furno said that the bruises were not
detected at the crime scene. But the report from the forensic
nurse on the scene had included photos of Borgia’s bruises and
small lacerations on her fingers.
Furno used the opportunity to gain access to the suspect’s jail
cell to conduct a 50-minute, taped interview that included a
Maceroni will conduct a special hearing, probably in May, to
determine whether the error was an “honest mistake,” as chief
homicide prosecutor William Cataldo contends, or if it amounts to
“reckless disregard for the truth” by Furno when he filed his
The hearing will require the county to subpoena four Clinton
Township detectives — three of whom are now retired — forensic
nurse Gail Lippert, and a corrections officer at the jail who
alerted Furno about the bruises.
In any event, Cataldo said the Prosecutor’s Office will seek a new
trial and will not offer a plea bargain to Borgia. Without the
jailhouse confession, he said the prosecution can still rely on
testimony that the defendant admitted at various times that she
“snapped” and committed the crime.
“She has never recanted,” Cataldo said. “The defense says she
didn’t do it, but she’s never said that."
Clinton Township grandmother:
Boy’s drowning was accident
By Jameson Cook - Macomb Daily
December 7, 2010
But Clinton Township woman also admits she ‘snapped,’ cop
A Clinton Township woman accused of drowning her 4-year-old
grandson told a police detective that she “snapped,” but in a
seemingly conflicting statement she called the incident an
“She stated that she snapped,” Clinton Township Detective William
Furno testified Monday. “She continued to say it was an accident.
She didn’t plan it.”
“She said she didn’t want people to think she did anything on
purpose,” said Borgia’s defense attorney, Mark Haddad, referring
to her recorded interview with Furno, during a preliminary
examination in 41B District Court in Clinton Township.
Borgia, 61, was bound over to Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount
Clemens by visiting Judge Herman Campbell on a charge of
first-degree murder, or in the alternative, felony murder and
child abuse, for the Jan. 11 “forced submersion” death of DeAngelo
Tobia, 4, in the bathtub of her unit at Clinton Place Apartments
Borgia, who remains in custody, had been found mentally
incompetent to assist in her defense but has regained competency
following a stay in the state Center for Forensic Psychiatry. So
her case will proceed.
Psychiatrists haven’t determined whether Borgia understood her
actions were criminal. Based on that report, Haddad could seek an
insanity defense. But even if she is found criminally responsible,
Haddad could seek to have her examined by other psychiatrists for
a possible insanity claim.
Two of Borgia’s daughters, Tonina Borgia and Vickie, who did not
want her last name used, previously said their mother was
depressed and suicidal in recent years after the death of her
longtime husband but had been a good and loving mother and
grandmother. She told Furno she was “under pressure” due to
Haddad pointed out during the interview with Furno at the Macomb
County Jail the day following the incident that Borgia seemed
mixed up and repeated statements by Furno.
“The confused grandmother is parroting back what the officer tells
her,” Haddad said.
During the recorded portion of the interview, Furno is the first
to mention the incident wasn’t planned and was an accident, Haddad
But during questioning by assistant Macomb prosecutor William
Cataldo, Furno said he asked the questions based on what she told
him prior to the recorded interview. She told him, “It was an
accident. I didn’t plan it,” he said.
When Furno and Detective Pete McKenzie arrived at the Macomb
County Jail to take photos of scratches, bruises and abrasions on
Borgia’s hands and arms, Borgia asked if they were her lawyers.
She then mentioned it being an accident and not premeditated.
Haddad noted she repeated the question about who they were even
after he had already identified himself and McKenzie, although
Furno said she may have asked while she was being read — and was
initializing — a Miranda statement form.
“We have a serious Miranda question in this case,” Haddad told the
judge, although Haddad acknowledged the judge likely would bind
over the case due to the lower standard, probable cause, compared
to a trial.
“I just want to get it on the record,” he said.
Borgia indicated that the night before the incident, she, Tonina
and DeAngelo watched the movie, “Sleeping Beauty.” Borgia slept
with her grandson on the couch.
Borgia said she awoke between 6 and 7 a.m. Jan. 11 and carried a
sleeping and pajamas-clad DeAngelo from the living room couch and
placed him in the bathtub, which she had filled with water,
according to the testimony of police Officer Preston Susalla, who
talked to her shortly after police were called. Tonina Borgia was
sleeping in the apartment at the time.
Borgia told another police officer shortly after the incident that
after she placed DeAngelo in the bathtub, she went into the
kitchen for about 25 minutes until Tonina awoke. Police were
called at 7:14 a.m.
An autopsy report showed DeAngelo suffered facial abrasions,
“compressed lips” and other injuries that indicate he was held
under water, Cataldo said.
said Borgia can be charged with first-degree, premeditated murder
because during the alleged drowning she had time for a “second
look,” to “reflect” on her actions.
“It’s a jury question,” he said.
Or jury members could convict of felony murder if they determine
Borgia committed child abuse, he said.