Mother charged with murder 17 years after shaking infant daughter

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Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue. | Supplied photo

A mother has been charged with first-degree murder following the death of her daughter — 17 years after she violently shook the girl and caused her to suffer a debilitating brain injury.

Katrina Gardner, 35, appeared Tuesday for a bail hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courth Building and was released on a personal recognizance bond.

On Dec. 11, 2000, a 17-year-old Gardner took her 3-month-old daughter and 1-year-old son to a relative’s house, Assistant State’s Attorney Jamie Santini said in court. When the girl began crying and wouldn’t stop, she picked up the girl with such force that it caused her head to whip back and forth. When the girl continued to cry, Gardner “violently shook her” and then “roughly threw her into an infant car seat.”

In the morning, the girl was “limp and glassy eyed,” Santini said, and had starting experiencing seizures. She was taken to a hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with bleeding between her skull and brain, oxygen deprivation and liver and kidney injuries.

The girl, identified as Cavianna Peek, never learned to speak or walk and “remained at the functioning level of a 3-month-old,” Santini said. She died on March 3 at the age of 17. An autopsy found she died of complications of a remote head injury and her death was ruled a homicide, Santini said.

Katrina Gardner | Chicago police

Katrina Gardner | Chicago police

Gardner was arrested two days later and charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery, Santini said. She was found not guilty of the attempted murder charge in a 2005 bench trial and was sentenced to four years of probation on the aggravated battery charge, according to court records.

Gardner was taken into custody Monday at her Gresham neighborhood home, according to her Chicago police arrest report.

As a result of the charge and a DCFS investigation, she lost custody of her daughter and 1-year-old son, Gardner’s court-appointed public defender said. Custody of both children was given to Gardner’s mother-in-law, but Gardner remained in their life. She was holding her daughter’s hand when she died and wrote her obituary, her attorney said.

“The state has every right to charge the case, but their ability to prove it is something else,” her attorney said, adding that the girl had suffered trauma to her head when she fell from her wheelchair about a year earlier.

Gardner, who her attorneydescribed her as a stay-at-home mother, had no money to post bond and was actively looking for a job. Her previous felony conviction made that more difficult, her attorney said. She had no other criminal background.

“If there was a definition of a tough case, this is it,” Judge John F. Lyke Jr. said.

“In some sense, she has paid her debt to society,” Lyke said of the nine years she was in court for hearings and sentenced to probation. Heordered Gardner released on an I-bond, which requires a signature, but no money to post.

Following the hearing, Gardner’s attorney and a relative who showed up in court for her hearing declined to comment on her case.


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