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June 13, 2013

Grandmother denied new trial in drowning case

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

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Terry Borgia was sentenced June 12 in Macomb County Circuit Court to life in prison without parole for the drowning of her 4-year-old grandson, DeAngelo Tobia.

MOUNT CLEMENS — Having sat quietly through years of court proceedings, the Clinton Township grandmother convicted of drowning her grandson in January 2010 spoke at her sentencing, only to softly thank those who handled the case and tell her family that she loved them.

Terry Borgia, 64, was sentenced June 12 in Macomb County Circuit Court to life in prison without parole for the drowning of 4-year-old DeAngelo Tobia.

To DeAngelo’s parents, Bashar and Amelia Alkasmikha, he was a happy, good-hearted child who didn’t deserve his fate.

After Terry Borgia said she loved her family, including DeAngelo, Bashar Alkasmikha replied, “Tell us the truth if you love them.”

“We still feel we don’t have justice,” said Amelia Alkasmikha, who, along with her husband, believes Terry Borgia is covering up for Terry’s youngest daughter, Tonina. “We want our justice. We want to know what really happened.”

But prosecutors have said there isn’t enough evidence to charge Tonina Borgia, instead pointing to self-incriminating statements Terry Borgia made to authorities. She said she had placed the sleeping boy, still clothed in his pajamas, in the water-filled bathtub that morning.

On June 12, Judge Peter Maceroni denied a fifth trial for Terry Borgia in response to defense attorney Mark Haddad’s petition for a new trial based on a remark made by Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Bill Cataldo during closing statements. Cataldo had said that Terry Borgia would have pleaded guilty if she was, as the defense maintained, truly covering for her youngest daughter, the only other person in the Clinton Township apartment the morning of the murder.

The judge had instructed the jury to disregard the statement at the time. But Haddad contended that the remark was the difference between the jury finding her guilty in a case that was without direct, physical evidence.

Haddad also said the fact that the comment wasn’t entirely true, since Terry Borgia had pleaded no contest to the charges in February 2012; she later withdrew the plea.

Cataldo, however, said that the statement, though he wished he could take it back, was a simple, logical counterargument to Haddad’s defense: that Terry Borgia was covering for her daughter, 29-year-old Tonina Borgia.

“This is my 23rd year on the bench. This is by far the most difficult sentence I’ve ever had to impose,” Maceroni said to the attorneys, media and family members gathered in the courtroom.

Maceroni said there was only circumstantial evidence. He said that the jury had found her guilty, and regardless of his own feelings, case law prohibited him from doing anything about it.

Outside the courtroom after the sentencing, Haddad said he interpreted the judge’s remark to mean that the judge also disagreed with the jury’s verdict.

“It’s the most difficult case I’ve ever had,” Haddad said.

Haddad added that Terry Borgia stands a good chance of appealing the verdict in appellate court.

Bashar and Amelia Alkasmikha said the three-and-a-half year duration of the case has been difficult on them.

“Every day that passes by, we think of him,” he said. “He’s all we talk about; he’s all we think about. He’s very special in our heart.”

The couple said that investigators should have arrested and questioned both Tonina and Terry Borgia at the time.

Tonina has confessed to the drowning several times in the past, but while testifying at a previous trial, said the fake confessions had happened when she was off her medication. Police did not believe Tonina’s confession to be accurate.

“I will go visit (Terry Borgia) in prison,” Amelia Alkasmikha said. “Hopefully, she will tell me some kind of answers.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nico Rubello at nrubello@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.