SCHENECTADY -- The father and grandmother of a disabled 14-year-old boy pleaded guilty Thursday to charges related to the boy’s death in April.
Mansa Wilkerson, 44, pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, a felony, in connection with the death of his son, Jaquez Carden. He entered the plea in front of acting Schenectady County Court Judge Mark Caruso and faces a sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison, as a result of the plea agreement reached with the county District Attorney’s Office.
Brenda Wilkerson, the mother of Mansa Wilkerson and Carden's grandmother, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child on Thursday as well. She was sentenced to time served.
It was unclear when Brenda Wilkerson was indicted.
Brenda Wilkerson and her attorney, Lara Barnett, declined to comment after Thursday's proceeding.
Mansa Wilkerson’s attorney, Stephen Signore, did not return a request for comment regarding his client’s plea.
County Prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham said Mansa Wilkerson did not have custody of his son at the time of Carden's death, and that Brenda Wilkerson was Carden's caretaker.
Mansa Wilkerson, however, would frequently stay at his mother’s home with his son, Tremante-Pelham said.
Carden died on April 6 due to what Tremante-Pelham said was acute oxycodone intoxication.
Carden has been previously described as severely autistic. Tremante-Pelham said Carden depended completely on his caretakers for basic day-to-day needs, including eating.
His condition made him prone to putting any object he could grab into his mouth and eating it.
Carden had a room in Brenda Wilkerson’s home on Florence Avenue that was considered his “safe room,” according to Tremante-Pelham.
It was void of any objects that could fit in his mouth. Tremante-Pelham said it just had a couch, a futon, a chair and a television.
Mansa Wilkerson and his son were together in that room on April 6. Tremante-Pelham said Brenda Wilkerson was at the home at the time.
A week before Carden’s death, Mansa Wilkerson, who suffers from sickle cell anemia, picked up a prescription of approximately 240 oxycodone pills, according to Tremante-Pelham.
When first responders arrived at the home, Tremante-Pelham said they found a plastic baggie with approximately 50 oxycodone pills that were prescribed to Mansa Wilkerson. They also found a baggie that had residue in it and the corner bitten off.
Tremante-Pelham said first responders initially thought they were only responding to a medical call. But that changed once they arrived.
“Based upon the first responders at the scene, and anyone who had contact with Mansa on that day, all indications pointed to him being impaired at the time,” Tremante-Pelham said.
She said it was known that Mansa Wilkerson had an opioid dependency. It was also something that was known to Brenda Wilkerson, Tremante-Pelham said.
“Knowing Mansa’s dependance and knowing the child’s condition, she failed to take care of him and failed to care for him appropriately on that day and prevent this from happening,” Tremante-Pelham said.
Signore had previously called the April 6 death an accident.
Tremante-Pelham noted that Mansa Wilkerson wasn’t charged with intentionally doing anything wrong. But what he did involved criminal conduct, and he pleaded guilty to that, she said.
“This case is about responsibility taken for the death of this child,” Tremante-Pelham said. “Not only is [Carden] a child, but he is a child with special needs who relied on caretakers who let him down -- who failed him, really,” Tremante-Pelham said. “And hopefully, it’s about preventing something like this from happening to another family in the future.”
Mansa Wilkerson is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 25.