A Cobb grand jury indicted Ebony Espree Berry on Thursday on charges of murder, felony murder and two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree.
She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison plus 20 years if convicted.
The 36-year-old mother was arrested June 15 at her home off Concord Road on felony charges of first-degree cruelty to children and murder. She is accused of cruelty to children in the first degree for “willfully” depriving her daughter, Markea Berry, of sustenance to the point of causing her death.
Berry’s court-appointed attorney, Rick Kimberly, said he wasn’t surprised by the indictment.
“Those are consistent counts with what I’ve spoken to Ms. Berry about before,” he said Tuesday. “None of it will be fun but it’s not a terrible surprise.”
A date has not been set for Berry’s arraignment, but it has been assigned to Cobb Superior Court Judge Jim Bodiford.
Cobb County Magistrate Court Judge Frank Cox, while assisting the Cobb County Superior Court, granted Berry a $75,000 bond in late September, but she never posted bond.
Kimberly said he filed a motion last week asking for the court to reduce her bond.
“Family and friends have not been able to come up with the $75,000 bond,” he said. “I spoke with a representative from the family about two weeks ago and they are having trouble raising the money.”
Kimberly said he hasn’t met with his client in a while but said when he last spoke to her, she was doing fine.
“Obviously, it’s a very touchy situation for her with the loss of a daughter and the others being in the state’s custody,” he said.
Details that led to an arrest
Police were called to Berry’s home in reference to an unresponsive teenage girl, who weighed 43 pounds, around 1:30 p.m. on June 15.
When police arrived on the scene, they found the body of Berry’s 16-year-old daughter, and the autopsy revealed that she was “severely malnourished and neglected.”
The police report states that Berry’s three younger children, who were at the home at the time of the incident, were in “good condition” and were taken into custody by the Department of Family and Children Services.
Kimberly declined to give the children’s names, but he said that a 15-year-old boy, 8-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son were all in foster care and are “hanging in there.”
“There is a desire on the kids’ parts to get back with family, but under the circumstances, I think they are doing OK,” he said.
The children remain in the state’s custody until they can get issues resolved with the State of Michigan to hand over custody to a paternal aunt, whom Kimberly said was previously a foster parent for other children.
“We are trying to hold off on trying to place the kids in Michigan with the aunt until after the school year is over,” he said.
Detective Chris Twiggs with Cobb Police has been assigned to the case.
His report included the mother telling police that her daughter was anorexic and bulimic, that she hadn’t taken the teenager to the doctor in two years, what the child looked like when police responded to the scene and that there was some delay from the time that Berry discovered her daughter dead to when she called police.
“(He) described the child as being so emaciated that she looked like a skeleton with skin on top,” said now-retired Cobb County Magistrate Judge Joan Bloom, who presided over Berry’s probable cause hearing.
The evidence Twiggs presented also indicated that the mother found the child dead around 11:30 a.m. but that phone records show she did not call 911 until around 1:30 p.m. that day, Bloom said.
She said Senior Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Odom argued that Berry intentionally inflicted physical and emotional pain on the child, which eventually caused her death.
“She didn’t want to be subject to being ridiculed by medical professionals, and selfishly she didn’t want to be punished with the crime herself, so she let her daughter waste away and starve to death,” Bloom said.