Judge grants home detention to Maryland man accused in child’s death

A District Heights, Maryland, man charged in the killing of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter has been put on home detention and may continue working, a judge ruled during the man’s court appearance.

The little girl, Nychelle Pettus, was found dead on May 27, just minutes after her mother, Coretta Pettus, had gotten home from work. She had called 911 immediately.

Charging documents said that Kevin Robinson, 38, initially denied to police that anything had happened to the child. He was the only caregiver in the home at the time, and said the child never fell or had an accident.

But the story he told Child Protective Services was different from what he told police. Robinson admitted to police he had picked the girl up from her crib and accidentally dropped her about five hours before the child was found dead. He even reenacted what happened for police.

Months later, a report from the state medical examiner said the explanation Robinson gave to police did not add up.

“The injuries that she sustained were a skull fracture, and it was across the top of her skull from side to side, and then several injuries to her shoulder and her arm on her left side,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Garth said.

“What the medical examiner concluded was that was not consistent with the story that he gave — that he had dropped her accidentally, which leads us to believe that something else happened in that room that would have caused a very serious and deadly injury to this victim.”

Robinson had nine friends and family members inside the courtroom, and his aunt was the one who pleaded with the judge not to keep him behind bars as the case moves forward.

“This was an accident. We’re grieving. He’s grieving,” she told the judge. “We’re asking for grace and mercy.”

Robinson’s aunt explained the changing stories by saying that he was scared and had been held in police custody for several hours.

“We all know he didn’t do it,” she said, and implied something else had been going on inside the home.

The judge alluded to that too, pointing out that the medical examiner’s report found the child had sustained other injuries before the day she died.

“There is some indication that maybe it wasn’t the best of home circumstances,” said Garth, who told the court that the child had also been hospitalized for malnutrition in the months before her death. “However, as far as this case goes, the death of this child, we do think it was concentrated to the immediate eight hours prior to her death.”

Judge Brian Denton also agreed with arguments that pointed out there’s no direct witnesses linking Robinson to the child’s death, and was swayed enough by family members to order him to private home detention, which allows Robinson to keep working. He has a curfew which requires him to be home between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Prosecutors had argued that Robinson be kept behind bars, calling him a threat to the community.

“Oftentimes, individuals who don’t have a prior record are accused of abusing children, or even abusing, let’s say, a loved one, spouse or something like that. Oftentimes, their family members have no idea what their actions are, what they’re capable of,” said State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy.

“So what I saw was a family who believes in their family member. That’s not unexpected, that happens all the time. But then, of course, we have the facts, we have the evidence, and we have a medical finding that this child died by homicide.”

She acknowledged that a judge has to look at all the factors and make a decision.

“So while we disagree with the decision, we understand it. I don’t believe that it has anything to do with the strength of the case. It’s really about whether or not this person poses a danger to the community,” Braveboy said.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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