Kenisha Berry Killed One Infant and Attempted to Kill Another

Kenisha Berry
Mug Shot

On November 29, 1998, in Jefferson County, Texas, 20-year-old Kenisha Berry placed duct tape across the body and mouth of her 4-day-old son, placed him in a black plastic trash bag and left his body in a trash dumpster, resulting in his death. She was convicted of murder in February 2004 and sentenced to death, but her sentence was later changed to life in prison.

The 4-day-old dead child was found by a Beaumont, Texas couple looking for aluminum cans in the dumpster near their apartment. Named by concerned neighbors as Baby Hope, the police were contacted and the investigators were able to get a palm print off the trash bag and a fingerprint off of the duct tape, but the case remained unsolved until five years later.

During the hot month of June 2003, another newborn child named Paris was found abandoned in a ditch and covered in hundreds of fire-ant bites. The infant was hospitalized for almost a month due to seizures brought on by the bites.

DNA and Print Evidence

A tipster told investigators that Berry was Paris' mother and she eventually turned herself in to the police. Past employment records show that Berry worked for four months as a prison guard at Dayton prison and as a daycare worker at Beaumont around the time of her arrest.

A DNA test proved that Berry was also the mother of Baby Hope. Also, her palm and fingerprint matched the palm and fingerprint that had been found on the bag and duct tape. Berry also took the investigator in the Paris case to a dumpster where she had thrown a pillowcase that she said had wrapped around the child. It was in the same trash can where Baby Hope was discovered. She was arrested and charged with the capital murder of her son Malachi Berry (Baby Hope).

The Trial

According to the court records, Berry gave birth to the two children at home and kept their births a secret. She admitted to this to an agent with the Child Protective Services. According to the same agent, Berry had three other children, all fathered by the same man, and that they appeared to be unharmed. Berry told her that Malachi and Paris were fathered by different men and that none of her family knew about the pregnancies or the births of the two children.

Berry also told her that on the day that Malachi was born, she had arranged for the children to stay with relatives. When they returned the following day, she told them that she was taking care of a baby for a friend.

Berry testified in court that she did not kill Malachi and that he appeared fine after she gave birth to him at her home.

She explained that she left the infant asleep on the bed in her bedroom and went to the store to get milk. When she returned, she checked on Malachi who was still asleep. She then fell asleep on the couch and when she awoke she again checked on the infant, but that he was limp and not breathing. Realizing that he was dead, she said she was too scared to call for help because she did not know if it was legal to have a baby at home.

Berry testified that she then duct-taped his arms so that they would be in front of him and across his mouth because it bothered her that his mouth was opened. She then put him in a trash bag, borrowed her grandmother's car and placed the infant in the dumpster where his body was later discovered.

The forensic pathologist that had performed the autopsy on Malachi testified that based on his finding, the cause of death was asphyxia due to smothering and ruled the death of a homicide.

The prosecutors believed that Berry's motive for murdering Malachi and later abandoning Paris in a ditch on the side of the road shortly after being born, was an attempt to hide the fact that she had been pregnant, noting that she kept the children that shared the same father and discarded the children fathered by different fathers.

Verdict and Sentencing

Berry was found guilty in the first degree in the murder of Malachi. She was sentenced to death on Feb. 19, 2004. She was then resentenced to life in prison on May 23, 2007, because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that prosecutors failed to show that she would be a danger to society in the future.

For the death of Baby Hope, she is to serve a prison sentence of at least 40 years before being eligible for parole. For throwing Paris in a ditch of fire ants, Berry received an additional 20-year sentence.