n an emotional hearing Tuesday, a Baltimore day care worker admitted to murdering a baby girl who would not nap and was sentenced to 70 years in prison.
Her admission came during a wrenching two-hour hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court. By the end, even the judge cried on the bench.
“I’m just reflecting on everything I heard,” Judge Althea Handy said, composing herself. “There are tears everywhere in this courtroom.”
Handy was on the bench watching a video of the baby’s murder when they brought in the young day care worker.
Leah Walden, 24, wore shackles and a sweatshirt from jail. Her voice was so soft, the judge told her to speak up as she pleaded guilty to the murder.
With her plea Walden, of Windsor Mill, admitted she willfully and deliberately killed 8-month-old Reese Bowman last year at a day care center downtown. It was premeditated: murder in the first degree.
“You thought about it, even though it might have been brief. Do you understand that?” Handy asked her.
“Yes,” Walden said, crying.
Technically, Handy sentenced Walden to life in prison with any time beyond 70 years suspended, meaning she won’t get out until she’s in her 90s if she serves the full sentence.
The facts were undisputed.
Walden returned from lunch to Rocket Tiers Learning Center just east of downtown and found baby Reese would not sleep. She slapped the girl in the crib. She pinned the infant down with one arm; Reese kicked her legs. Walden snatched her from the crib. She pushed her back down. Then she piled blankets over the child’s face.
Reese, who was 8 months and 19 days old, suffocated to death May 23, 2017. Surveillance cameras inside the day care center captured the crime.