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Fargo woman gets 30 years for killing 15-month-old in her care

Prosecutors say the child had injuries from head to toe.

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Brandi Adeleke appears with her attorney Steven Mottinger at her sentencing Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Cass County District Court for the November 2020 death of a 15-month-old girl in her care. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO — A Fargo woman has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing a 15-month-old child in her care last year.

Brandi Lynn Adeleke, 38, cried Monday, Dec. 6, in Cass County District Court as she listened to the family of Meka Ducheneaux say what was taken from them when Meka was killed. Adeleke, who faced up to life in prison, previously pleaded guilty to murder and child abuse.

“I don’t understand how you take the life of an innocent child and what she could have done so badly that made you hurt her,” said Meka’s aunt, Amanda Carrillo. “I know I will never get the answers to these questions.”

The prosecution and defense reached a joint recommendation for the sentence, which Judge Steven Marquart approved. Adeleke will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years.

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On Nov. 20, 2020, Adeleke called emergency responders to 2301 17th S. St. in Fargo to report that Meka was struggling to breathe, according to court documents. Medical staff found the child unresponsive, blue in the face and with suspicious bruising, a criminal complaint said.

Adeleke told police she gave the baby a bath to help with a fever, and while leaving the girl unattended, the child went under the water for an unknown amount of time, the complaint said.

Adeleke said she aided Meka and later gave her juice before the child became unresponsive, court documents said.

An autopsy report determined Meka died from blunt force trauma due to numerous injuries. The death was ruled a homicide.

The child had “substantial injuries” from head to toe, prosecutor Ryan Younggren said Monday in court. "I usually say that metaphorically, but not in this incident," he said.

Younggren read a letter written by Meka’s grandmother, Cindy Carillo, who said the family was so excited when the child was born in 2019. Three months after the baby’s first birthday, her father had to make the decision to take Meka off life support on Nov. 24, 2020, the grandmother wrote.

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Meka Ducheneaux. Photo via GoFundMe, YouTube

“No one ever thought that her first birthday … would be her last,” Cindy Carillo wrote.

Family were told not to read the autopsy report out of fear that it would change them, the grandmother wrote, adding that she wouldn't wish what happened to her family on anyone else, not even Adeleke.

Amanda Carillo said she can’t forgive herself for letting Adeleke, a family friend, watch Meka.

“I feel pain anytime I walk through the door because there’s something missing,” she said. “I feel pain when I hear my kids laugh because (Meka’s) laughter is missing.”

Adeleke has a history involving mental health, her defense attorney Steven Mottinger said. He speculated that those issues became too much for her in this situation. Instead of reaching out for help, she made “a tragic mistake,” he said.

“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Adeleke said. “I’m just sorry.”

The case has been difficult for Adeleke, Mottinger said, but she wants to take responsibility for her actions and move on with her life.

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Most families in such cases ask for the defendant to spend the rest of their lives in prison, Younggren said.

In this case, Meka’s father, who is serving time in prison for an unrelated case, told prosecutors he believes Adeleke’s life is “still worth something and still worth saving,” Younggren said.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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