Police: Mother worried about deportation drowns infant, 5-year-old

USA Today 1 month ago
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WILMINGTON, Del. — A Delaware woman who called police early Monday worried about her immigration status after her boyfriend was detained by federal authorities has been charged in the deaths of her infant son and a 5-year-old boy in her care.

Police were called later that morning by the same woman and found the children drowned in a bathtub in Wilmington.

Kula Pelima, 30, or Wilmington was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. She was being held at Baylor Women's Correctional Institution after failing to post $2 million cash bail, police Chief Robert Tracy said at a Tuesday press briefing.

"She was concerned about her immigration status," Tracy said of Pelima's initial call to police at about 3:45 a.m. ET Monday. "She's a Liberian immigrant that came to the country in 1997, and she was worried about what could happen to her because her boyfriend ... (the father of both boys) was picked up also by the feds on some immigration issues on Oct. 6."

A collection of stuffed animals and candles was set

A collection of stuffed animals and candles was set up Tuesday morning outside the apartment were two boys were found dead the day before. (Photo: Esteban Parra/The News Journal)

Pelima called 911 again at about 8:30 a.m. Monday, telling the operator that she had drowned the children, Tracy said. She met responding officers at the door of her first-floor apartment and directed them to the bathroom tub where they found the two boys' bodies.

"At the same time, there was a strong smell (of natural gas) in the apartment," Tracy said. 

Investigators have not determined why the stove's gas had been left on.

A city police official said Pelima is in the country legally. Wilmington police did not know why her boyfriend, identified as Victor Epelle originally from Nigeria, had been detained in Pennsylvania by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 

An officer who went to her home after the 3:45 call told Pelima that they were not interested in arresting her and gave her the Delaware Helpline phone number so she could get answers from the state. The officer saw the 5-year-old boy during that early-morning visit and did not see anything indicating distress in the home, Tracy said. 

While court documents state the children were hers, Tracy said the older boy, Alex Epelle, 5, was not her biological son. The younger child, Solomon Epelle, 3 months, was. 

Police contacted Epelle, who is the father of both boys and is being held in York, Pa., Tracy said.

A federal court database shows no deportation records for Epelle. 

The mother of the older boy has not yet been located, Tracy said. She hasn't been part of his life for "several years," he said. 

Tracy described Pelima as sounding "controlled" when she called police to tell them about the deaths of the boys

"Not someone that is indicative of someone that just has murdered two children," he said.

She admitted to drowning the boys during the call, Tracy said. 

Pelima was taken to the Wilmington police station where, according to court records, she told investigators that she dropped the younger boy into the tub.

“Pelima advises that she plugged the drain in the tub and turned on the water,” the documents state. “Pelima left the infant on his back in the tub as the tub began to fill with water.” 

She then left the bathroom and went to find the older boy.

Once the older boy was in the bathroom, she placed him into the tub and held his head under water until he stopped moving. 

A collection of stuffed animals and candles was set up Tuesday morning outside the apartment were two boys were found dead the day before. 

Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy speaks at a press conference Tuesday on the death of two young boys in Wilmington on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. 

Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy leads a press conference regarding the deaths of Alex Eppelle, 5, and Solomen Eppelle, 3 months. 

Wilmington police Chief Robert Tracy discusses the case of Kula Pelima, who was charged in the Monday, Oct. 16, death of her infant son and a 5-year-old boy. 

Wilmington police Chief Robert Tracy leads a press conference Tuesday, Oct. 17, regarding the deaths of Alex Eppelle, 5, and Solomen Eppelle, 3 months. 

Wilmington police prepare to remove the bodies of two children found dead Monday. 

Forensic investigators arrive at the 800 block of W. Ninth Street in Wilmington. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Wilmington police investigate the death of two children near the Trinity Vicinity in Wilmington Monday. 

Community members and police gather at the scene of an ongoing investigation at W. Ninth and Adams streets in Wilmington. 

Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy speaks with investigators. 

Police are investigating an incident that has roads and lanes closed in the area of West Ninth and Adams streets near Trinity Vicinity. 

Forensic investigators arrive at the scene of a death investigation at at West Ninth Street in Wilmington on Oct. 16, 2017, near Trinity Vicinity. 

Detectives exit a residence in the 800 block of West Ninth Street near Trinity Vicinity. 

Reports off a police scanners mention a possible drowning and a person in custody near Wilmington's Cool Spring neighborhood. 

The bodies of two young boys were found in a home in this first-floor apartment in the 800 block of W. Ninth Street in Wilmington on Oct. 16. 

The two boys' bodies were removed from the home just before 2 p.m. Monday and taken away in the state forensic examiner truck. 

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