By Monica Land
PURVIS – A woman who Lamar County authorities said allegedly put her 3-month-old daughter in her neighbor’s swimming pool and walked away has been bound over to the grand jury.
Forty-three-year-old Mary Elizabeth Booker has remained in custody since her arrest on Aug. 29.
Assistant district attorney Doug Miller said the next circuit court term begins Jan. 28, 2013.
Police Chief Richard Gibbs said the incident surrounding the infant’s death has shaken Purvis, the county seat of Lamar County.
“The whole community is just crying out about it,” Gibbs said. “They’re just so upset and there has been a huge outpouring of concern over this situation.”
Gibbs said on the morning of Aug. 29, the police department received a phone call from Booker’s neighbor.
“We received the call at 7 a.m.,” he said. “And it was a rather strange call…the neighbor said it was ‘a matter of life and death’ and he needed someone at his house right away. He said his neighbor came over and she’d put her baby in his pool.”
Gibbs said when one of his officers arrived at the residence, in the 200 block of Brown Street, he found the infant face down in the water.
“My officer told me the child was just floating on top of the water,” Gibbs said. “He didn’t have to jump in the pool. He was able to reach into the pool and grab her out and he immediately began CPR.”
Gibbs said the officer was unable to resuscitate the child and when the ambulance arrived, paramedics continued resuscitative efforts en route to Forrest General Hospital.
Gibbs said the officer questioned the neighbor and learned Booker was reportedly still at her residence across the street.
“He gets the story from the husband’s standpoint,” said Gibbs. “The husband said his wife woke up like any other morning and she went to feed the baby. The husband starts missing her after a period of time and he goes to look for her. Around this time, she comes in from outside soaking wet. He asks about the baby and she tells him where the baby is and he goes outside screaming and hollering trying to find his child.”
Gibbs said the neighbor heard the father screaming and ran outside.
“The three of them were friends,” Gibbs said. “The husband, the wife and the neighbor – and the neighbor comes out and says, ‘What’s wrong?’ and the father said I think my baby is in your pool.”
Gibbs said when Booker was questioned, she reportedly admitted that she put her baby in the water.
“She was real cooperative,” he said. “She didn’t deny anything. She was quiet and a little bit reserved. But she wasn’t angry and she wasn’t apologetic. It was more or less like she was telling a story.”
Booker was arrested without incident and transported to the Lamar County jail. She was initially charged with aggravated assault.
“The baby was revived to the point of being able to take a few breaths and she had some small brain stem activity,” Gibbs said. “But she’d been in the water about 15 minutes, and the doctors weren’t giving us a lot of hope. She was getting progressively worse.”
The baby, whose name was Meekness, had been transferred to University Medical Center in Jackson and was on life support, but died several days later.
Charges against Booker were upgraded to murder and her bond was set at $1 million.
Gibbs said an evaluation was made to determine Booker’s mental status at the time of the crime. He further said Booker has three other sons, one who is an adult and a 3 and 4-year-old. DHS now has custody of the younger children.
He said other domestic calls have been made to the residence, but have been mild in nature.
Gibbs added that this is only the third murder in Purvis, a town of about 2,100 residents.
“The only other murder dates back to the early 1900s and then around the 1980s where a body was found inside a house in the attic,” he said. “But this will certainly make history. We just don’t have these type of things happen around here. It’s a sad situation. One that we hate to have to deal with.”