The nanny accused of assaulting a 1-year-old girl in Cambridge in January is facing a first-degree murder charge after a grand jury indicted her in the toddler’s death, prosecutors announced Friday.
Aisling McCarthy Brady, 34, had originally been charged with assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury in connection with the death of Rehma Sabir. But the case rose from the district court to the superior court level on Friday when the Middlesex district attorney’s office announced that indictments were returned against Brady on the murder and assault charges.
Melinda Thompson, Brady’s lawyer, maintained her client’s innocence and said the charges are wrongful and have compounded the tragedy of the toddler’s death.
“My position will never change,” Thompson said. “She is absolutely innocent.”
Thompson said she planned to visit Brady in custody as soon as she could. Thompson criticized prosecutors for announcing the murder charges before informing her and said they have ignored her requests for discovery evidence.
Rehma’s parents, Sameer Sabir and Nada Siddiqui, have not commented on the child’s death since asking for privacy after the incident and could not be reached Friday.
A native of Ireland, Brady moved to the United States in 2002 under an international agreement that allows visitors to stay in the country for 90 days without documentation, immigration officials have said. She has stayed in the country illegally since then, and officials will move to deport her once the criminal case is over, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman told the Globe in January.
At Brady’s initial arraignment in Cambridge District Court in January, prosecutors outlined the events they say Brady told authorities had led up to Rehma’s death.
They said that based on Brady’s account, Siddiqui left home around 9:30 a.m. Jan. 14, and Brady played with the toddler before placing her in her crib for a nap.
Not long after 1 p.m., Brady fed the girl and noticed she appeared sleepy and was slumped over in her high-chair. Prosecutors said the nanny again put Rehma into her crib, and called 911 a few hours later after the child suffered an apparent seizure.
Responders took the girl to Boston Children’s Hospital, and she died two days later, the district attorney’s office said.
Thompson has rebutted the allegations against Brady, saying that before Rehma died, she was sick while traveling with her family overseas. She also pointed to preexisting bone fractures across the toddler’s body as evidence that someone else might have injured her.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death was blunt force head injuries, but prosecutors previously said in a statement of probable cause that the girl also had several fractures near her spine and in her left forearm and left leg.
Brady was held on $500,000 bail and has been in jail since she was arraigned on Jan. 22.
Thompson argued for lower bail last month, saying her client was being held unjustly as the district attorney’s office waited for the final report from the medical examiner’s office.
Stephen J. Weymouth, a Boston defense lawyer, said that although it took months, the indictment was expected.
“I never thought once that there would be anything other than this outcome,” he said.
Prosecutors had indicated from the outset that they planned to increase the charges, he said, and the district court does not have jurisdiction to try a murder case. The indictment pushes the issue up to superior court.
Brady has not been arraigned on the murder charge, and Weymouth estimates it may take 15 to 18 months for the case to go to trial.
Brady began working as a nanny soon after she arrived in the United States in 2002. She had created accounts on baby-sitting websites, but it is unclear how Rehma’s family was introduced to her. Brady had worked for the family for about six months.
Jetta Bernier — executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, a nonprofit that works to prevent child abuse — said the case serves as a warning to parents to be extremely careful in selecting someone to care for their child. It also highlights problems with stress in child care, she said.
Parents and caretakers should always step away and compose themselves if they grow frustrated with a toddler, Bernier said. Shaking or striking a child is never a solution.
“Babies have never died from crying, but they have died in the hands of an adult who didn’t know it was OK to step away right away,” she said.
Bernier said the increased charge against Brady was significant and that an abuse charge might not have been serious enough.
“It sends the message that the death of a child is certainly as significant as the death of an adult and the charges are in fact serious,” she said.Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; Peter Schworm at email@example.com.