An 11-year-old North Carolina girl found dead in her mother's car in Troup County Sunday night may have been dead before the family left for the mother to have a Sunday afternoon job interview, possibly at Auburn University.
After performing an autopsy on the girl found fully clothed on the back seat of the car, the GBI Crime Laboratory has ruled the girl was a victim of homicide. The autopsy revealed that the girl had been dead 12-24 hours, said Troup County Sheriff Donny Turner. The actual cause of death has not been revealed. Turner said it is likely she died in North Carolina.
The mother, Nancy Akinyi Kasera, 38, of Thomasville, N.C., and originally from Kenya, called Troup County 911 at 9:13 p.m. Sunday from the LaGrange Travel Center, 2560 Whitesville Road, reporting her daughter was not breathing. When the ambulance arrived, officials discovered the girl dead in the car, said Turner. The woman was taken into custody after authorities discovered wounds on the girl's body.
The sheriff said Kasera signed a waiver at 10 a.m. Wednesday to be extradited to Davidson County, N.C., where she is expected to be charged with murder. She already faces a child cruelty charge lodged by the Davidson County Sheriff's Department.
When Coroner Jeff Cook and deputies examined the girl, they discovered wounds and marks indicating that Nicole Aduma Kasera had been seriously abused over a period of time. The autopsy performed Monday and Tuesday also revealed wounds all over her body, some that were healed and others rather fresh, the sheriff said.
An 8-year-old daughter who was also traveling with her mother did not appear to have been physically abused, said Turner. She was checked out at West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange. She was placed in a foster home, but Turner said North Carolina authorities have initiated action in Troup County Juvenile Court to have the girl returned to North Carolina.
Turner said authorities found old and fresh wounds to the dead girl's head, back, wrists and other parts of the body. But he could not say whether the visible wounds would be consistent with a death caused by beating. Some wrist marks appeared to be from the girl being tied up. Some may have been from other-type wounds. He said it will be up to North Carolina investigators to try to determine how, when and why the wounds were inflicted. They already are talking to friends, neighbors and school officials.
Troup investigators were meeting with three investigators from Davidson County Wednesday, turning over evidence to them and being interviewed, as the Davidson officers prepared to return the mother to North Carolina late Wednesday to face charges.
"We are going to turn everything we have over to Davidson County," Turner said. "We are out of it as far as charges. With the nature and length of abuse of this child, the fact they lived there, we felt it was better to transfer the case. When they go to their district attorney and go over the information, I think they will proceed with a murder charge. If they don't feel comfortable and don't file a murder charge, we will pursue a murder charge here through our district attorney's office. By law we can, since the body was found here. The abuse had gone on weeks or months. We think the injuries were afflicted there."
Troup investigators have put together a timeline of where the Kaseras were on Sunday from receipts they found in the car. The sheriff said they left Thomasville at 5:20 a.m., reportedly for the mother to have a job interview at a university, possible Auburn University, though investigators have been unable to confirm that.
A receipt from a McDonald's restaurant in Buford, Ga., showed Kasera ordered two Happy Meals and two sodas at 11:31 a.m. Sunday. At 3:22 p.m., they stopped and ordered two Happy Meals and two sodas at a McDonald's in Auburn — which suggests she could have interviewed for a job at Auburn University. Investigators can next place the family heading north toward home when 911 received the Sunday night call while the Kaseras were parked at the LaGrange center.
Nancy Kasera was a graduate of Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C., the sheriff said. The family had moved to the United States 11 years ago, from Kenya, where they were part of the Luo tribe. They experienced tragedy last summer when Kasera's husband apparently died of a heart attack while jogging in July.
The 8-year-old appeared very self-reliant when she talked at the hospital, officials said, and indicated she had been taking care of herself for a while. When a nurse asked if she was sad, she reportedly nodded her head yes.
The sheriff said the mother was visibly upset when investigators placed her in a patrol car at the travel center, and sometimes would speak to herself, apparently in her native tongue.
"When she came here, it's basically 'I want to talk to a lawyer,' She did tell us she went to a job interview," the sheriff said.