Neighbors perplexed; grandmother charged with tossing girl from walkway to her death
Wednesday, December 1, 2010; 12:00 AM
Carmela Dela Rosa often cared for her granddaughter during the day and would carry her carefully in her arms. The happy, 2 1/2-year-old Angelyn Ogdoc would blow kisses to neighbors, her face framed by her striking long, dark hair.
Dela Rosa, 50, of Fairfax County, would watch her daughter's daughter several times a week. On Monday, the three generations of her family got into a car on Ellenwood Drive for the short ride to Tysons Corner Center, Angelyn strapped meticulously into a child car seat by her grandfather. Before returning home, the family would meet with unexplained tragedy.
Police say Dela Rosa, while walking with the family from the mall to a parking garage, suddenly grabbed the toddler and tossed her over the guardrail of a fifth-story walkway. Angelyn's body crashed into the pavement 50 feet below, and she died hours later at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
So far, police and family members have offered nothing that would suggest why a doting grandmother would so suddenly lash out at the little girl. Two law enforcement sources said nothing precipitated the tragedy - there had been no fight or argument.
Police charged Dela Rosa with murder on Tuesday. When asked if the death could have been accidental, Officer Tawny Wright, a Fairfax County police spokeswoman, said that did not appear to be the case.
"Our detectives looked at that and determined the act was intentional," Wright said.
The walkway is one of several that connect the parking garage and the shopping mall. Below is a two-lane access road and sidewalks. The safety railing appears to be above waist level on an average-height adult.
After Angelyn's fall, Dela Rosa and the other family members stayed at the scene as rescuers and police arrived. Dela Rosa was initially charged with aggravated malicious wounding, but the charges were upgraded Tuesday after Angelyn died at 4:30 a.m. Dela Rosa made an initial court appearance Tuesday and has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 4. She is being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
Law enforcement officials said they would look at possible mental health issues. One family friend said Dela Rosa had battled depression over the past few years.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Dela Rosa's family members declined to comment. Relatives of Angelyn's father in Falls Church also declined to comment by phone.
No one answered the door at Dela Rosa's home or at Angelyn's on Tuesday.
Neighbors on Ellenwood Drive, just north of Route 50 in Fairfax, described Dela Rosa as a loving, warm caregiver to her granddaughter and as an involved member of the community. She raised a daughter who graduated from a private Catholic high school and attended George Mason University, and she has a teenage son currently attending private Catholic school.
Dela Rosa and her husband have worked part time as ushers at George Mason University's Patriot Center in Fairfax. Barry Geisler, the Patriot Center's general manager, said Dela Rosa was friendly and engaging.
Russell Jackson lived next door to Dela Rosa and often saw her and the child smiling and having fun. "She always had her little granddaughter in her arms. The baby was always happy. She seemed like she loved that baby. . . . They are good people."
Jackson said that the Dela Rosas have lived in the house for a number of years and that Dela Rosa is the kind of neighbor who would organize barbecues and bring food around as neighbors shoveled snow this past winter.
About an hour before the incident at Tysons Corner Center, Jackson's son, Russell Jackson Jr., saw the family get into the car. Angelyn's grandfather buckled her into a car seat, and Angelyn left with her mother and her grandparents, he said.
Family friends, part of the tightknit Filipino community in Northern Virginia, said the Dela Rosa and Ogdoc families are well-liked and have been dedicated to the success of their children. Friends of Angelyn's mother and father left sympathetic messages on Facebook, with one calling them "the most wonderful parents I know."
The friends said Angelyn and her parents moved into Angelyn's paternal grandparents' home in Falls Church after living with Dela Rosa.
That home is a newly built, two-story white house with a fence and a manicured lawn. A child's seat and toys sat on the back porch Tuesday. Neighbors said the family slowly built the house over the past year.
Mark Bailey said he would see Angelyn playing in front of the home, adding that she came to his house on Halloween dressed as a princess.
"Beautiful little girl," Bailey said.
Another neighbor, Joan Naleppa, said Angelyn's paternal grandparents renovated the house when Angelyn was born and made an upstairs apartment for Angelyn and her parents. She said Angelyn's mother would drop the girl off with Dela Rosa three or four times a week, neighbors said.
"How could this happen?" Naleppa wondered. "What's this world coming to?"
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Staff writers Caitlin Gibson, Tom Jackman, Ria Manglapus and Debbi Wilgoren and staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.