A young mother who lived above a Ronkonkoma banquet hall was charged Monday with neglecting her children so badly that one of them starved to death and the other, a 2-year-old, weighed just 15 pounds when police arrived.
Louisa Givens, 21, was indicted on a charge of second-degree manslaughter in the death of her younger child, Kayden Givens, a 10-month-old boy, on May 19. He weighed 13 pounds and had been dead for hours when Suffolk police responded to a 911 call of a child not breathing, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Caren Manzello said at Givens' arraignment. She's also charged with first-degree reckless endangerment, a felony.
Givens pleaded not guilty. Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow ordered her held on bail of $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 7 1/3 to 22 years in prison.
Manzello said the children had been left unattended for 17 hours at the time of the call from Givens' apartment above Beach Club Estate, a banquet hall on Lake Ronkonkoma. An autopsy determined the boy died of malnutrition and dehydration, she said.
Manzello said Kayden's sister, Ava Johnson, was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital and recovered after nine days of treatment, most of which involved simply feeding her.
In November 2012, after superstorm Sandy, Givens told Newsday at a Farmingville shelter that she went without food for four days so she could feed her children. She said then that she went to the shelter after her apartment lost power.
"I can't have them not eat -- they are my children," she said then. She said she cut up pieces of fruit and the last of the bologna to feed them. She said she bundled her two children in clothes, jackets, hats and gloves. "I felt like I wasn't a good parent . . . I was blaming myself." She said she finally called the Red Cross to get help.
Ava is now in foster care, said Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office.
The children have different fathers. Kayden's father is in prison, Manzello said. Neither could be reached for comment.
A source familiar with the case said that when police got to her apartment in May, there was sufficient food there for her and her children.
A manager at Beach Club Estate confirmed she lived there, but didn't recall her.
"We didn't know her," he said. "We didn't interact with her."
Suffolk Department of Social Services spokesman John Nieves said state law prohibits the department from confirming or denying if there were previous calls to Child Protective Services against Givens, but other department sources said the family had no case history with the department before Kayden died.
Defense attorney John Schick of the Legal Aid Society said she's lived on Long Island her entire life.
When in the shelter, she told Newsday she moved from shelter to apartment to hotel while trying to make ends meet.
Clifford said one reason for the time it took to indict Givens was that the autopsy of Kayden was not completed until October. He said there were no records that Kayden had received immunization shots.
A month ago, she responded to an online ad seeking a roommate and moved into Chris Potts' apartment in Mastic, he said. That's where she was arrested Sunday night.
"She seemed like a happy girl," Potts said, adding that she told him she'd had a child who died, but didn't mention a second child. "We got along."
With Laura Figueroa