Fairfax woman convicted of killing grandchild

October 6, 2011

Carmela dela Rosa, the Fairfax County woman who threw her 2-year-old granddaughter over the edge of a mall walkway to her death, was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder, and a jury recommended a sentence of 35 years in prison.

Dela Rosa, 50, whose horrific actions on a brisk evening in November shocked the region, looked straight ahead and showed no reaction as the verdict was read. Her daughter, Kathlyn Ogdoc, wept in the front row of the Fairfax courtroom. It was Ogdoc’s child, Angelyn, who was killed.

“She’ll never be able to start kindergarten,” Ogdoc had told jurors after the guilty verdict was read, her voice hoarse from crying. “It’s so hard watching the kids go back to school. We don’t get to see that.”

She described the last time she heard Angelyn cry — in the back of an ambulance. As the girl was being treated at the hospital where she died, Ogdoc said she felt powerless.

“I’m her mom. I’m supposed to be able to help her,” she said.

By the end of Ogdoc’s testimony, jurors were weeping and family members leaned on each other for support and hung their heads in grief.

Prosecutors asked jurors to impose a life sentence, saying that dela Rosa acted out of jealousy and vengeance. She was angry, they said, because Ogdoc had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. She trained her hatred on the child’s father, James Ogdoc.

“In the end, she was a jealous, angry and spiteful woman,” Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh told jurors. Angelyn, he said, “should have been as safe as anyplace in her grandmother’s arms.”

The family outing on Nov. 29 began as a nice afternoon at Tysons Corner Center. But even as the family ate ice cream and played with Angelyn on a miniature train, dela Rosa plotted to kill the girl, prosecutors said. She later admitted her plan in a videotaped interview with Fairfax detectives.

When the family was leaving the mall, dela Rosa waited until everyone else had walked ahead and then scooped up Angelyn and darted to the railing of the bridge, which connected the food court and a parking garage. The killing was caught on surveillance tape and played for jurors.

During the seven-day trial, deputy public defender Dawn Butorac tried to show jurors that dela Rosa’s mental health had so deteriorated in the months before the killing that the grandmother did not fully comprehend what she was doing that evening.

A clinical psychologist who testified for the defense said dela Rosa suffered from a major depressive disorder and was legally insane at the time of the crime. But his testimony was rebutted by the prosecution’s own expert witness, Stanton Samenow, a clinical psychologist who said dela Rosa fully understood her actions.

“From her standpoint, nobody loved her anymore,” Samenow said on the stand. “The baby was garnering all the love, so there was resentment.”

The jury deliberated for about six hours before reaching a guilty verdict and spent only about an hour on its recommendation for dela Rosa’s punishment. She is scheduled to be formally sentenced in January, and a judge can reduce the jury’s recommendation but cannot increase it.

James Ogdoc, the victim’s father, told jurors Thursday about the night his daughter died. When Morrogh opened by describing Angelyn in the past tense, he broke in and said, my daughter “still is Angelyn.”

“In one word, she was a gift,” he said. “No matter who saw her . . . she would brighten their day.”

The child’s parents began dating in 2004 as students at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington County. They continued to see each other at George Mason University. When Kathlyn got pregnant in 2007, James paid for many of the expenses by working at Starbucks.

He was on duty at the coffee shop that night in November. He recalled getting a frantic call from his wife, who told him to come to the mall. He said he didn’t understand what was going on when he arrived, but he followed the ambulance to the hospital.

Angelyn’s final hours were a jumble of X-rays and doctors, James Ogdoc said. Morrogh asked him to describe the moment the little girl could hold on no longer, about 4:30 a.m.

“There were attempts to revive her?” Morrogh asked.

“Yes, sir,” he replied and put his head in his hands and wept. He regained his composure after a time and lifted his head.

“No parent should have to bury their child,” he said.

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