Police: Toddler killed in caregiver's care

by: Leslie Coursey Updated:

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BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Larry Warden said his wife is getting a raw deal.

 "Anybody that knows Karena knows that she's not going to mistreat no kids," he said.

 But Karena Warden, 42, is sitting in the Ware County Jail right now, charged with murder in the death of 3-year-old Malachai Smith.

"They got it in their head that she beat that kid. And I know she didn't. I know she didn't," Larry Warden said.

Larry Warden told Action News the toddler was one of three children he and his wife were taking care of for the summer.  He said they came down from Rockford, Illinois, with his wife's daughter a couple of months ago.  He said Smith's mom and his wife's daughter were friends.  The little boy was set to return home next week.

Saturday night, Warden said his wife took the little boy to the hospital.


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Action News asked, "How did the little boy get hurt?"

"I was at work," Warden said. "I know he fell earlier in the week and busted his chin."

The boy died at the hospital.  Police were called to investigate.  According to the Waycross Police Department, an autopsy showed he had bruises consistent with abuse. 

Karena Warden was arrested Tuesday. Action News learned through our sister station, WIFR, the little boy was developmentally disabled.

"We've never mistreated none of them kids," Larry Warden said.

He said his wife is a church-going woman incapable of such cruelty.

"You can ask anybody that knows her in Waycross, is this her character here? Beating kids? No," he said.

Karena Warden is being held in the Ware County Jail without bond.

Our sister station tells us Malachai's body will be flown back to Rockford Friday.


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