A New York mother and her husband charged in the 2012 death of a disabled girl stood to inherit her $2.1 million trust.
Oscar Thomas, 28, was arraigned Thursday in Westchester County Court on charges of criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child and is being held without bond.
His wife Nicole Diggs, 31, was arrested last week. Diggs, who worked as a special education teacher at a Bronx elementary school, had a disabled 8-year-old daughter who could not speak, walk or eat.
Alayah-Rose Saverese was "severely disabled child who suffered from cerebral palsy as well as a very significant seizure disorder," said prosecutor Audrey Stone.
Thomas and Diggs allegedly starved the 8-year-old, failed to bathe her and attend to her medical needs. She was found dead from a ruptured stomach in her mother’s apartment on June 25, 2012. EMS workers estimated that she had been dead for four to six hours before they arrived.
The couple had access to a $2.1 million trust to care for the girl. The money was awarded after Diggs and the girl’s biological father, 33-year-old Anothony Savarese of Yonkers, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Cayuga Medical Center, where their daughter was born.
Diggs has a long history of neglect allegations against her. Six complaints had been filed against her before Alayah’s death, including that she was underfed, filthy and frequently missed school and physical therapy. One claim was substantiated, but not until after her death.
A caseworker had told Diggs to hire a health aide to support Alayah, but Digg allegedly said "she did not want the government to try to recoup any money from the settlement.”
Darryl Gibbs, a child abuse prevention advocate who has been advocating on Alayah’s behalf, praised the arrests.
"I hope that the arrest and prosecution of Alayah's horrible caregivers sends a loud and clear message to caregivers across Westchester to always put the care of their children as a priority," Gibbs told The Journal News. "The death of Alayah should as well make major changes in (the Department of Social Services) because Alayah should have been taken out of that house of horrors for her own well-being."
Diggs resigned from P.S. 152 Evergreen and has since been barred from having access to students.