The surviving twin of a girl allegedly killed by her mother and older brother said today the defendants sometimes beat him to keep him away from a bedroom closet where the girl’s body was entombed for 20 years.
Madeline Carmichael, 61, and her son Gregory, 38, are on trial for second-degree murder in the 1979 death of 3-year-old Latanisha Carmichael. New York prosecutors say the defendants beat the girl to death after she vomited, then tried to cover up the slaying, wrapping her body in plastic, placing it in a trunk filled with mothballs, and stashing the trunk in a bedroom closet.
Latanisha’s body allegedly remained there until investigators made the gruesome discovery last November after her two other siblings — her twin Andre and her older sister Sabrina — contacted police.
Madeline and Gregory Carmichael have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their attorneys have suggested Latanisha’s death was an accident and that the defendants made a “horrible mistake” when they tried to cover it up.
Suffering for a Family Secret Today, in the second day of testimony in this non-jury trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court, Andre told Justice Anne Feldman he had no memory of his deceased twin. Often solemn, Andre, 24, said his memories only go back as far as age six or seven, three years after his sister’s death. He first suspected he had a twin when he was 12 years old when his aunt asked him about her, Andre said.
When Andre asked his mother whether he had another sibling, he said she evaded his question. His hands balling into a first on the stand and his jaw tightening, Andre said he soon found himself receiving a beating.
“She [Madeline Carmichael] really didn’t respond to me,” Andre said. “She and Greg then spoke. The next thing I know I was being beaten. … I was kicked, punched, slammed to the floor.”
Despite suggestions from the defense that the alleged beatings were not that severe, Andre said they were frequent in his mother’s household. He testified that his mother was a strict disciplinarian and didn’t let him go out or have any friends. His mother, Andre said, often used older brother Greg as an enforcer and he remembered Greg obeying orders to beat him and Sabrina.
“Everywhere I went, she was there; everywhere she went, I was there,” Andre said. “My mother basically [beat me] with anything she could get her hands on. Canes, extension cords, belts, you name it.”
The Forbidden Closet As a child, Andre recalled, he often played with doorknobs. But, he said, his mother was adamant about keeping him away from a bedroom closet where Latanisha’s body was kept. Andre said his mother and brother would beat him sometimes to keep him away from the closet, which often had a bookcase or bed in front of it.
After being beaten after his mother thought he had stolen $400 reserved for the monthly rent, Andre was placed in foster care in 1988. (Sabrina had already been placed in foster care six months earlier.) On his 13th birthday the following year, Andre said he saw his mother and asked her again whether he had a twin sister.
But again, he testified, she avoided the question.
“She said, ‘When you get old enough, I will tell you,’” Andre recalled. “ ‘I know someone who looks like you, talks like you, sits like you.’”