Officers testify in Schenectady woman's murder case
Hearing held on admissibility of Nelligan's statements
SCHENECTADY Officers arriving at 23 Mynderse St. the morning of Feb. 23 found Gloria Nelligan upstairs trying to do CPR on her grandson, an officer testified Friday.
As paramedics took over, city police Officer Mike Pommer directed Nelligan downstairs to let the paramedics work.
He also tried to get information that might help in treating the boy, including what happened to him, on what was then a medical call for an 8-year-old boy.
Nelligan told the officer that her grandson, Sha’hiim Nelligan, hit his head in the bathtub, Pommer testified.
“She said she was trying to give him a bath and Sha’hiim had an outburst and began flailing his body around and struck his head on the bathtub,” Pommer testified Friday.
Pommer testified at a pre-trial hearing in the second-degree murder case pending against the grandmother. The hearing was held to determine whether statements Nelligan made to police are admissible at trial.
Nelligan was arrested the day after the boy’s death, accused of causing it. Authorities have said it wasn’t a fall that caused the boy’s death, but a sustained beating by his grandmother.
In the end, swelling was so severe, prosecutors have alleged, that his heart finally stopped for lack of blood.
Pommer was one of a number of witnesses to testify at the hearing Friday, including police officers, investigators, paramedics and firefighter-paramedics.
The testimony shed new light on Nelligan’s account of what happened to the boy, for whom she was guardian.
According to various witnesses, she told authorities the bathtub injury was one of several incidents of the boy acting out — in which he would hurt himself — in the days leading up to his death.
The acting out, she told authorities at the scene, started after the boy’s biological father came back into the picture, apparently through a phone call.
The exact time of the alleged bathtub incident was unclear. Defense attorney Mark Caruso attempted to suggest it was nearer to 1:30 to 2 a.m. Pommer’s testimony would have placed it at around 8 a.m. Nelligan called 911 just after 10 that morning. The significance of the time was unclear.
Paramedics also heard Nelligan tell authorities that the boy had been alert 10 or 15 minutes prior. At some point in the morning, apparently after the bathtub incident, the boy expressed he was dizzy, she told Pommer. She had him lie down.
She said she heard a “thud” and went to check on him and found him on his bedroom floor. She then called 911.
One firefighter-paramedic also testified to seeing bruises on the boy’s body.
Nelligan, 43, of 23 Mynderse St., faces one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.
According to the murder indictment, Nelligan killed 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.”
Presiding over the hearing is Judicial Hearing Officer Michael Eidens. The case is being prosecuted by Christina Tremante-Pelham, who questioned the witnesses Friday.
Another officer, Sgt. Paul Palmer, testified that he heard Nelligan say Sha’hiim was acting out earlier, and that he was rubbing his lips on the wooden kitchen floor to make them bleed.
Pommer described Nelligan as calm during the questioning at the house; Palmer described her as upset, but calm enough to answer questions.
Because of the beating, Sha’hiim suffered swelling in his brain and then his heart finally stopped, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney has 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.
Prosecutors have said the beating was done over a day and a night.
Nelligan is also accused of failing to provide the child sustenance, as well as timely medical attention.
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.
Her anger spilled over that Friday, sources said, possibly leading to the beating of Sha’hiim.
Nelligan’s direct account to detectives the next day at the station was not discussed in court.
That is expected to come with the continuation of the hearing next month and the testimony of lead Detective John Hotaling. Hotaling has been off the job since April, accused in a road rage incident in Glenville.
But, in questioning other detectives who interacted with Nelligan the day after the boy’s death, Caruso suggested that, while his client’s account became more detailed, it did not change as a result of questioning.