The top charge against the city woman accused of fatally beating her 8-year-old grandson last month is now murder, with prosecutors saying Friday that the beating amounted to torture.
Gloria Nelligan, 43, of 23 Mynderse St., faces one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the Feb. 23 death of her grandson, Sha’hiim Nelligan.
She was arrested the day after the death and charged with first-degree manslaughter, which has a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
A Schenectady County grand jury indicted her on that charge, but added the murder count. If convicted of murder, Nelligan faces up to 25 years to life in state prison.
According to the murder indictment, Nelligan is accused of killing her grandson “under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life” in which she “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of serious physical injury or death.”
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said later Friday that the grand jury found that the facts of the case rose to the level of murder.
“He was beaten so severely over such a prolonged period of time,” Carney said, “that much of his blood volume went to his bruised tissue.”
He then suffered swelling in his brain and then his heart finally stopped, Carney said. The official cause of death was “hypovolemic shock and cerebral edema due to multiple blunt force impact injuries,” according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The beating, Carney said, was done “over the period of a day and a night.”
Nelligan is also accused of failing to provide the child sustenance, as well as timely medical attention.
She has been represented by Schenectady County Public Defender Mark Caruso. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Nelligan is accused of fatally beating of the child on Feb. 22 and into Feb. 23 at the family’s home. She was the boy’s legal guardian.
The grand jury also returned the first-degree manslaughter indictment, accusing Nelligan of intending to cause physical injury to a person under the age of 11, then recklessly engaging in conduct that created a grave risk of serious physical injury and thereby causing death.
Nelligan was not in court when the indictment was unsealed Friday morning. She is expected to be arraigned on the new indictment next week.
Nelligan, though, learned of the existence of the indictment in a City Court appearance Thursday. She was not informed of the contents.
Court papers indicate the initial charge was based on statements from Nelligan, as well as the statements of witnesses and results of the police investigation.
Sources have said that an alleged theft may have led to the beating. Sha’hiim apparently took a pack of gum from a nearby store and his grandmother found out. She then took him back to the store and made him apologize, sources said.
Nelligan, though, didn’t leave it at that, the official said, and her anger spilled over that Friday, resulting in Sha’hiim’s death that Saturday.