Brooklyn Mom Convicted of Manslaughter for Drowning 2-Year-Old Daughter

June 5, 2019 Updated: June 5, 2019

A Brooklyn jury on June 4 found a young mother guilty of manslaughter in the drowning death of her 2-year-old daughter.

Lin Li, 27, now faces up to 25 years in prison for repeatedly forcing the toddler’s head underwater as punishment, authorities said in a statement.

Lin Li, 27, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter on June 4, 2019. (Brooklyn District Attorney)

The girl, Melody Zheng, was found unconscious and unresponsive on March 13, 2016, when police officers arrived at the family’s apartment in the Sunset Park neighborhood. The police said her 30-year-old father, whose name was not released, was trying to revive her when authorities arrived.

Officials said they started looking into whether the toddler had been abused after finding bruises on her older brother’s neck.

Neighbors said the parents moved into the Brooklyn apartment in 2015, while the children lived with their grandparents in China. The victim and her brother joined their parents five months later.

Prosecutors say Li took the girl into a bathroom to punish her by submerging her head in a storage container filled with water and holding her under until she stopped struggling. She later called 911.

The toddler was taken to Maimonides Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. The Medical Examiner determined that Melody had multiple bruises and contusions that were consistent with her being held underwater and drowned.

Li has been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and act injurious to a child. The jury also convicted her on assault charges for holding her 4-year-old son’s head under water before drowning her daughter, for which she faces jail time up to 15 years.

“Melody was a defenseless child who depended on her mother to protect her,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in the statement. “It is extremely sad and inexplicable that she lost her life at the hands of the person who should have kept her safe. Nothing will bring Melody back, but with this verdict we make clear that we will bring to justice those who harm our children.”

A building superintendent, Stanley Vazquez, who lives a few doors away from the family told The New York Times that he was walking his dog when he saw emergency workers carrying a small child trying to revive her.

“When I saw this, my heart just dropped,” said Vazquez. “It was just a baby.”

Officials said there was no history of abuse reported at the home before the incident. They also said the victim’s 4-year-old brother has been moved into the custody of child protective services.

A family neighbor who lives in the same multi-family home talked to NBC 4 and said he was distraught when he heard about the incident.

“I almost cried ’cause I saw her every morning while I go to the school, she was really cute,” said neighbor Peter Chow.

Another local resident said he couldn’t comprehend the incident.

“I never believed a mother would do that,” he told NBC.

“Every Saturday she goes wash the clothes at the laundry, she says ‘nihao, nihao.’ Happy,” he added.

Another neighbor, Philip Medina, told the New York Daily News that the allegations against Li were shocking.

“I never expected that. Who drowns their own kid? It’s a tragedy what went on,” said Medina.

“I never seen her do nothing wrong. I’ve never seen them even yell at their kids,” he added.

The Epoch Times Reporter Denisse Moreno contributed to this report.