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Crime News Family Crimes

Mother Admits To Lying About Whereabouts Of Toddler Daughter She Left To Die In House Fire

Syracuse Police officers gained entry into the burning house and saved the 2-year-old daughter of Jennelle Gerton, who had insisted the girl wasn't present in the home.

By Jax Miller
House Fire

A New York mother has admitted to lying about the whereabouts of her 2-year-old daughter and leaving her to die in a house fire.

Jennelle Gerton, 33, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to attempted murder and other charges after trying to kill her child by trapping her in their burning home, according to Syracuse.com. Initial responders with the Syracuse Police Department narrowly saved the toddler, even though Gerton “adamantly denied” her daughter was inside the burning home.

Investigators later discovered that Gerton set fire to several phones and other electronics before leaving the house, according to the local outlet.

Officers first responded to the corner of Tallman Street and Hudson Street on March 4, 2021, following a domestic call at around 12:18 p.m., officials stated. Upon arrival, they found Gerton and Eric Bowens, 56, arguing over the whereabouts of their 2-year-old daughter. Bowens reportedly left the child with Gerton earlier in the day, and when he returned to pick her up, Gerton was alone when exiting the Palmer Avenue address.

Gerton was “adamant” with authorities that the child was not with her but instead with a grandparent. Officers decided to visit Gerton’s home, about two blocks away.

“When officers responded… they heard smoke detectors and smelled smoke,” said police. “Fearing that the child was inside, officers immediately went into action.”

Officers could not enter the two-story home through the locked front door and had to break a window to gain entry. A mattress was “propped up” against a window near the main entrance.

Smoke filled the house from floor to ceiling, according to Syracuse.com. Officers soon found the child with “soot in her nose.”

Responders with the fire department and ambulance personnel treated the child on the scene with minor smoke inhalation.

“The investigation revealed that Gerton had caused a fire in a bathroom and left the house while leaving her child behind,” police stated.

Police thanked Officer K. Fellows and Officer Helterline for their heroic efforts in saving the child.

Gerton was arrested on charges of attempted arson in the second degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, and endangering the welfare of a child.

Assistant District Attorney Judson Knappen said it remained unclear why Gerton wanted to kill her own child but suggested that Gerton burning phones and other communication devices indicated it was over a dispute with the child’s father.

It was not clear from court records when her charges were amended, but Gerton pleaded guilty to attempted murder, a sentence that has her facing eight years in prison, according to Syracuse.com. Separate weapons charges, including criminal possession of a firearm, may add three to six years to her sentence.

Gerton is expected to appear for a sentencing hearing in May.

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