PRESQUE ISLE (AP) – A baby sitter charged with manslaughter in the death of a baby girl in her care in Limestone gave several different accounts to police about what happened to the child, according to court documents.

Heather Fortin, who made her initial court appearance Friday, said 20-month-old Teairra Leathers jumped up and grabbed her neck and then stopped moving after a diaper change; later, Fortin said the baby fell from her mother’s lap; in a third interview, she insisted she did nothing to harm the child and couldn’t explain the child’s injuries. “The explanation that’s been given does not fit the medical evidence that’s been presented to us,” said State Police Detective Sgt. John Cote.

During her initial court appearance in Presque Isle, Fortin appeared via video from the Aroostook County Jail in Houlton, where she was held on $50,000 cash or $200,000 in property. Fortin, 23, of Limestone, dialed 911 at 6:46 p.m. on June 18 to report that Teairra was unresponsive. The baby was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to the Eastern Maine Medical Center, where her condition worsened before she died the following day.

Fortin was arrested on Wednesday after an autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office concluded that Teairra’s head injuries couldn’t have been caused by a fall. The medical examiner ruled that the baby’s death was a homicide.

Fortin was good friends with Rena Leathers, who in addition to Teairra had a 3-year-old daughter named Skylee who often played with Fortin’s young daughter, who was not yet 2. Fortin’s daughter is now staying with a relative.

Limestone Police Chief Stacey Mahan said this is the first homicide case the town has seen in a long time.

Leathers told police that Fortin stopped by her home on the morning of June 18 to inquire about a play date, and left with Skylee. Leathers said she and her boyfriend later dropped Teairra off as well so they could attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

Leathers denied that she’d dropped Teairra, as Fortin asserted in one of her interviews with detectives. She said Teairra was fine when she left her with Fortin.

AP-ES-06-29-07 1352EDT


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