A special education teacher from New York who was accused of killing her disabled 8-year-old daughter may still be entitled to collect a portion of the $1 million trust fund set up for her child from the settlement of a malpractice case brought on after complications during her birth.
Nicole Diggs and her husband reportedly withheld food and medical care from their daughter Alayah Savarese, who was severely disabled, reports Huffington Post. They also allegedly kept her out of school for days at a time, depriving her of special services like occupational and physical therapy, and didn’t attend to her personal hygiene. Alayah suffered from bleeding gums and had “smelly and dirty hair and clothing” and foul body odor, according to authorities.
One school staff member, who took it upon herself to clean Alayah, said after shampooing her hair, “the water was black from the dirt.”
Alayah was found dead in an apartment in 2012 when she was left in the care of Thomas' friend – who has said he didn’t feel he could handle her medical issues. Police say she had bruises, welts and lacerations that hadn’t been cared for.
Diggs and her husband, Oscar Thomas, who isn’t her child’s father, pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent homicide and child endangerment. But even if they are convicted, Diggs could still receive the inheritance because she hasn’t been charged with intending to kill Alayah.
“If it’s unintentional, then the person can still inherit,” said John Riordan, an attorney and former Surrogate’s Court Judge in New York. “But the facts of this case are very unsettling, and under the circumstances, it doesn’t seem correct that that would happen.”
The little girl’s biological father, Anthony Savarese, expects to receive 50 percent of the trust fund. It is unknown whether he plans on contesting his ex-wife’s portion of the funds.
The official cause of Alayah’s death was related to her cerebral palsy and seizures, according to a medical examiner.
When the girl was born in 2004, doctors reportedly severed her umbilical cord and deprived her of oxygen, reports Daily News. As she grew, it was discovered that she couldn’t walk, talk or feed herself. Diggs, 32, reportedly refused to have her daughter institutionalized and didn’t accept help from relatives. She graduated from Cornell University with a master’s degree in special education and worked at a public school in the Bronx.
Thomas was reportedly the girl’s primary stay-at-home caretaker.
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