An 11-year-old Macon girl found dead in a van last week was malnourished and had “innumerable blunt force trauma injuries,” according to arrest warrants in the case.
An autopsy revealed that Ruth Baldwin had recent injuries to her face and chest. She also had signs of previous beatings or injuries over about three-quarters of her chest and abdomen, nearly two-thirds of her legs, about a third of her arms and 10 percent of her face, according to a warrant charging her grandmother, 49-year-old Cynthia Diane Baldwin-McClesky, with murder.
Among the beating injuries were welt marks and cuts from a cord, according to a separate arrest warrant.
Macon police said Baldwin-McClesky took the girl to the QuickMED urgent care facility on Riverside Drive about 4:15 p.m. Thursday. The girl was pronounced dead about 4:45 p.m. inside the van she’d been riding in.
Baldwin-McClesky, who lives on Old Holton Road, has admitted she deprived her granddaughter of food and other sustenance for up to three days as a form of punishment, according to a third arrest warrant.
The girl’s mother, Katreena Baldwin, said she first learned of her daughter’s death from her husband, Baldwin-McClesky’s son. The couple live separately but remain married.
“He told me it was medicine,” Baldwin said Monday when reached by phone in Laurinburg, N.C.
She said she didn’t know her daughter had been beaten and deprived of food until she searched the Internet on Monday morning and saw an article on The Telegraph’s website, macon.com.
That’s also when she discovered that Baldwin-McClesky had changed her daughter’s name from Leokosha to Ruth.
“I’m shaking all over,” she said.
North Carolina authorities removed Leokosha and her five younger siblings from Baldwin’s care in 2005 amid allegations of neglect after they were left home alone for what Baldwin described as a short amount of time.
Leokosha and a younger sister, now 10 years old, went to live with Baldwin-McClesky, Baldwin’s mother-in-law in Macon, Baldwin said. Another child went to live with Baldwin’s mother. Three others are in the North Carolina foster care system, said Paula Legette, Baldwin’s sister.
At that time, Baldwin-McClesky said she’d allow Baldwin to talk with her daughters, even though she didn’t approve of her son’s marriage. But once the children started living in Georgia, she didn’t allow Baldwin access to the girls, Baldwin said.
She said she remembers her daughter as being a healthy little girl.
Legette said she and Baldwin are trying to contact child protective services in Macon to try to gain custody of the other daughter Baldwin-McClesky has been raising. The women plan to travel to Macon this week.
Baldwin-McClesky was arrested early Friday on charges of murder and two counts of cruelty to children. She is being held at the Bibb County jail without bond.
Bibb County Superior Court records show that Baldwin-McClesky was granted temporary restraining orders in 2005 and 2006 after she alleged that her then-husband had been physically abusive and threatened to kill her.
In the complaints, Baldwin-McClesky also requested protection for a teenage son who was living with her. Her granddaughters weren’t listed in the court documents. The couple divorced in 2009.
A neighbor of Baldwin-McClesky’s said Monday he was surprised to learn of her arrest.
He sometimes chatted with her over the fence since the family moved to Old Holton Road, a quiet side street off Riverside Drive, about six months ago.
“She runs a pretty tight ship, and her and the young’uns are always working in the yard,” said the neighbor, who asked that his name not be used. “As soon as they got here, they were out in the yard cutting grass and trimming bushes.”
He frequently saw them grilling out and never noticed any sign of a problem.
The brick home was neat and tidy Monday morning with gardening supplies at the front and back doors and a few struggling rows of vegetables on the shady side of the house.
A statue of an angel and two white doves sat inside on the windowsill near the front door.
A passer-by might not have realized that children lived there, as the only clue was a small swimming pool on the back porch. Its box was still nearby.
The neighbor said he never saw the children out at night. He said he had noticed that the girl was thin, but a boy who seemed to be a few years older had a husky build.
“They had parties for little kids and you’d hear them singing,” he said. “Everything seemed on the up and up.”
Writer Liz Fabian contributed to this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.