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Pontiac woman, 18, charged in baby’s ’14 scalding death

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An 18-year-old Pontiac woman was charged Friday with intentionally scalding her infant cousin, just over a year after the baby died of severe burns.

Breeze Macha Henke was babysitting for 12-month-old Samaria Chambers on July 26, 2014, in a home in the 200 block of South Sanford when Oakland County sheriff’s investigators allege she held the baby down in a tub of scalding water because she was angry the child’s diaper was soiled.

Henke initially told investigators she started to draw a bath for the child when she was distracted and a 3-year child entered the bathroom and turned up the hot water, according to investigators.

Samaria suffered second-degree burns on the lower half of her body and died of the burns and multiple infections on Aug. 9, 2014, at DMC Detroit Children’s Hospital. The Wayne County Medical Examiner ruled the baby’s death a homicide on Sept. 15, 2014.

A burn expert at Detroit Children’s Hospital said the baby’s burns were consistent with her being held down in the tub.

Henke was arrested Thursday in Pontiac by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Apprehension Team.

According to a news release, detectives determined from testing that the bath water reached a temperature of 158 degrees within 10 seconds, and held that temperature for almost one minute. The baby was burned from the stomach down.

Asked why it took a year to bring charges against Henke, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the case crossed jurisdictional lines because the baby died in Wayne County, and was complicated by the lack of an adult witness other than the suspect. As a result, detectives had to rely on forensics to determine burns suffered by the child occurred deliberately or by accident.

“It’s a sad reminder that some people don’t have the patience, or I guess the love, to interact with children, especially children of this age,” Bouchard said Friday. “It’s incredible sad and tragic.”

Henke was arraigned Friday on charges of homicide/manslaughter, a 15-year felony, and second-degree child abuse, a 10-year felony. Judge Cynthia Walker of 50th District Court set Henke’s bond at $250,000.

Henke, who is being held in the Oakland County Jail, is scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 25 in 50th District Court.