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Prosecutor: Video shows abuse of child who later died; more charges filed

From the Cynthia Baker series

BLOOMINGTON — Eight-year-old Rica Rountree was beaten while standing naked, punched repeatedly in the back and pelted with verbal insults before she died in January, according to a prosecutor's statement read Thursday in the bond hearing for Cynthia Clay.

Clay, also known as Cynthia Baker, was indicted this week on murder and aggravated battery charges in Rica's Jan. 26 death. Charges accuse Clay, who is the girlfriend of Rica's father, of kicking the child in the abdomen, "resulting in peritonitis due to intestinal perforation from blunt force trauma."

Ten additional charges were filed against Clay: eight counts of domestic battery and two counts of endangering the life and health of a child.

In a statement read in court Thursday, Assistant State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds said video collected from Clay's cellphone shows the 41-year-old Normal woman taunting and injuring the child.

The video includes an August incident in which the child is dragged into a bedroom by her neck as the child is naked and shivering, said the prosecutor. Clay allegedly strikes the child in the face, asking her, "Do I need a collar for you?"

A September video depicts the girl being forced to hold cans out to her side as she stands in a corner. Clay hit the child several times in the back with her knee before bashing her head against the wall, said Reynolds. 

In October, staff at the victim’s school provided her with a coat, a gesture that sparked an angry response from Clay, said Reynolds. Clay accused the school staff of favoring Rica over Clay's daughter, said the prosecutor.

On Dec. 18, Rica came to school with two black eyes, said Reynolds. 

Clay told school officials Rica "was just clumsy and had given herself the black eyes," said the court statement. Clay allegedly refused to take the victim to the doctor for treatment of the black eyes.

Clay pulled both girls from the school after the Department of Children and Family Services was alerted to the black eyes.

Associate Judge Sarah Duffy left Clay's bond set at $1 million, requiring her to post $100,035.

Clay's lawyer Brendan Bukalski asked for a lower bond, citing Clay's lack of a criminal history.

Clay is due back in court May 3.

Cynthia Baker/Cynthia Clay


Photos: 2018-19 McLean County Jail mugshots 

Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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