True Crime: Laila Daniel, the girl whose life ended too early

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Staff Writer Grace Campbell investigates the mystery around the death of Laila Daniel.

Grace Campbell, Staff Writer

Laila Daniel was the daughter of Tessa Daniel, a woman with a troubling past. Tessa was constantly in and out of the foster care system, which made it easier for her to fall into a bad path, interact with sketchy men and suffer from a bad addiction. In 2011, Tessa gave birth to her first daughter Millie, but due to her addiction and the seemingly endless cycle of joblessness, she was admittedly not a very good mom. Then two years later, Laila was born. 

Laila and Millie were the best of friends. Despite their circumstances, they were happy, fun-loving sisters. Due to lack of money, the girls were forced to go from sitter to sitter as their mom was off doing whatever it was that she did. And when I say sitter, I don’t mean the traditional babysitter, I mean people their mother met moments before and would leave them with for hours at a time. 

Eventually, their aunt Peggy stepped in and took the girls under her care. This didn’t last for long though due to her own issues with drug abuse, and with their mother now awaiting trial in jail for a drug offense, they were sent into the foster care system. Jennifer Rosenbaum, a law student and district attorney’s assistant, heard of their case and reached out to Tessa on Facebook, as she was a former foster child herself As a result, Jennifer took the girls in. Tessa had every reason to trust her, she had a stable job, a stable house and a stable relationship. 

In the beginning, everything was perfect. Tessa and Peggy kept in contact with the girls, and it seemed like a very happy family. However, things slowly began to change. Contact began to slow until it completely stopped. And then, on Nov. 16 2015, everything changed. Jennifer called 911, where she claimed Laila choked on a chicken nugget and had already tried both the Heimlich and CPR. The EMT rushed to the house, but when they arrived, it had appeared Laila was already dead. Laila’s body was also covered in bruises and her leg was in a cast, all of which were unexpected as this was a call about choking. 

The EMT’S rushed her to the hospital, but it was far too late. Everything was not adding up. All her injuries were synonymous with abuse and the police as well as social services were notified. Jennifer claims the bruises were from her attempts at the Heimlich, but no one was buying that. Upon the performance of her autopsy, it was shown that Laila’s pancreas was broken in half from the outside. This is a very rare injury, and most commonly associated with blunt force trauma. She was also malnourished with multiple fractured bones and bruises all over. Her cause of death was ruled blunt force trauma to the torso, making it a homicide. 

So, what really happened? 

Well a month after her death, Jennifer and her husband Joe were charged for her murder. They posted bail and hired an attorney to defend their story that all Laila’s abuse happened before she arrived in their home and that they were innocent. A year after being charged, their indictment began where they plead not guilty. They were officially charged with forty-nine different charges including abuse of a child and premeditated murder, just to name a few. After a jury trial, they were both declared guilty. Jennifer was sentenced to life plus forty years in jail while Joseph will be spending 30 years in jail, rotting away as they deserve.