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Babysitter killed infant, told parents to ‘trust the word of God’ and gave them $2,000: Prosecutors

Norma Chagnama (Cook County Sheriff's Office)

Norma Chagnama (Cook County Sheriff’s Office)

A 29-year-old babysitter in Illinois has been arrested for allegedly killing a 4-month-old girl in her care last week and then paying the child’s parents several thousand dollars.

Norma Chagnama was taken into custody on Saturday and charged with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Zury Cruz-Sumba, records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

According to court documents obtained by Chicago Fox affiliate WFLD, officers with the Chicago Police Department responded to a call Thursday about a medical emergency at a home in the 4700 block of North Lawndale Avenue. First responders found the child unresponsive and took her to a hospital. She died Friday.

Court documents state that Chagnama had been babysitting Zury at her apartment since late last year, WFLD reported. After one of the girl’s parents dropped her off at the home last Thursday, Chagnama allegedly noticed that the child had vomited on her bed.

Chagnama then forcefully picked her up and swung the little girl over her shoulder to pat her on the back. Chagnama allegedly threw Zury back onto the bed and, seeing that the baby was having difficulty breathing, contacted her mother at work and told her something was wrong, the report said.

Los Angeles CW affiliate KTLA reported that when Zury’s mother arrived, she found her baby limp in Chagnama’s arms and began administering CPR until authorities arrived.

Her death was deemed a homicide, and the cause of death was abuse, KTLA reported. The girl had suffered a significant injury to her spinal cord, had swelling in the brain, and showed hemorrhaging in the optical nerves of both eyes.

During a Monday bond hearing, prosecutors told the court that after Zury’s death, her father contacted Chagnama and her husband to inform them of the tragic news, according to KTLA. The couple then allegedly went to Zury’s parent’s home, where they reportedly told the grieving parents to “trust the word of God” and then gave them $2,000, saying it was for funeral expenses.

The judge emphasized that the $2,000 payment could either be an act of kindness or something else of a more nefarious nature, KTLA reported.

Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW reported that during the hearing on Monday, prosecutors said that Zury’s parents had both been arrested last month and charged with child endangerment.

The two reportedly left the baby in their car while they went inside a restaurant. Zury was briefly placed into the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services but was returned to her parents about two weeks before her death.

Chagnama’s attorney, Niklas Lofgren, told WFLD that Chagnama was only trying to help the child, who could have suffered injuries from the attempts to get her breathing again.

“So obviously Norma’s devastated. We don’t agree with the allegations. We’re maintaining her innocence,” Lofgren told the station in a statement. “We don’t believe that the timeline that the state’s attorney set out lined up with what exactly happened on that day. Norma’s never been in trouble with the law before. She’s always cared for this child as well as other children.”

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.