Pontiac teen gets 1 year in jail in scalding death

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An 18-year-old Pontiac teen was sentenced to jail Tuesday in the accidental scalding death of her baby cousin.

Breeze Macha Henke was babysitting 1-year-old Samaria Chambers July 26, 2014, and drawing a bath for her when, Henke told investigators, she was distracted by another child she was caring for who came into the bathroom. Samaria suffered severe burns from the water, which was estimated to be 158 degrees.

She was rushed to a hospital and died about two weeks later, on Aug. 9, 2014.

“If I could change everything I would. ... If I could take all the pain, I would,” said Henke, choking back tears at an Oakland Circuit Court hearing where she was sentenced to one year in jail and one year of probation. “I’m asking for a chance.”

She had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and second-degree child abuse in the accident at a home in the 200 block of South Sanford. She was charged in August 2015 after a lengthy probe by Oakland County sheriff’s deputies.

Judge Rae Lee Chabot agreed with defense attorney Jeffrey Quas that there were unusual circumstances to the case.

“This is an outrageous, tragic case,” she said. “The adults had left this defendant in charge of four children under the age of 4. ... The family is to blame for this. I don’t know how anyone could handle four children.

“It’s clear she didn’t intend for this to happen.”

Quas read a letter from the victim’s mother, Seira Washington, who wrote: “I feel she has done her time and should be released.”

Quas said the teenager was feeding an infant with a bottle, caring for two toddlers and trying to give Samaria a bath — all at the same time.

“The water heater in home did not have a cap on it for temperature,” Quas said. “It came out of the tap at around 160 degrees.

“This was a very unique case. It was a perfect storm of a tragic story. ... She feels terrible about it and is still trying to get over it and I don’t know if she ever will be able to.”

Chabot noted Henke had no criminal history and would receive 193 days of credit for time served in jail. She also followed Youth Trainee Act sentencing, which means if she meets all conditions of her sentence, including probation, the offense will no longer appear on her record.

Chabot, whose sentence came within sentencing guidelines and probation department recommendations, also ordered mental health treatment for Henke.

Quas said he expects his client to be released and start serving her year of probation in about 31/2 months.

“This isn’t the end for her, it’s only the beginning,” he said.


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