NOVEMBER 09, 09:58 EST

NY Baby Found, Dead Since 1979
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — For two decades, in a closet strewn with air fresheners, bolted shut and blocked by a wardrobe, authorities say Madelyn Carmichael kept a horrifying secret: the violent death of her young daughter.

Ms. Carmichael, 60, fainted last week as she watched police — acting on a tip from a long-lost son — break into the makeshift tomb in her Brooklyn home where the mummified body was found.

Police believe the girl, named Latanisha, was beaten to death 20 years ago.

Test results on the girl's body are not expected until next week. Ms. Carmichael remained hospitalized today, delaying her arraignment on second-degree murder charges.

Meanwhile, investigators continue to piece together a harrowing family history fraught with fear and denial.

Detectives traveled to an upstate prison over the weekend to speak with Carmichael's eldest son, Gregory, 37 — a convicted robber who was a teen-ager when Latanisha died.

Ms. Carmichael has no criminal record. But as a single mother facing accusations of severe child abuse in the 1980s, she had sent two of her three children — including Latanisha's twin, Andre — into foster care.

Describing a mostly reclusive woman in declining health, neighbors said Ms. Carmichael talked of being haunted by a crying baby's wail. No small children lived nearby, but Johana Rivera, the building's superintendent, said her tenant complained about how a phantom baby ``was screaming and wouldn't let her sleep.''

Several weeks ago, Andre Carmichael, 23, sought to renew a relationship with his mother. The surviving siblings have said Ms. Carmichael welcomed her son, but seemed disturbed by the sight of his 3-year-old daughter, Andrea, who bears a strong resemblance to Latanisha. She asked him to never bring Andrea back.

Andre also contacted an aunt, who startled him by asking if he was in touch with his twin. He didn't recall having one.

That prompted him to confront his older sister, Sabrina. The sister broke down, telling Andre that she believed his twin was dead, and that the body was still inside their mother's apartment. Memories of the horrifying secret flooded back.

When he was young, Andre said, Latanisha ``went through my mind a lot of times.'' He said social workers and teachers ignored talk of a twin sister, ``so I shut myself down.'' Welfare officials say they are investigating how the toddler's disappearance went unnoticed.

After Andre and his sister called police, members of the department's Cold Case Squad knocked on the door of Ms. Carmichael's ramshackle, one-bedroom apartment Friday night with a search warrant.

Inside the closet, detectives found a trunk covered with cellophane. Inside was a tiny body wrapped in a baby blanket, plastic bags and yellowed newspaper dated Nov. 4, 1979.

They think the paper marks the date Ms. Carmichael killed the child in another apartment, and believe she took the body with her when she moved to her current address almost 20 years ago.

Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.