Tuesday, April 20, 1999

testifies in mom’s
murder trial

Her daughter stands trial in
the death of a girl who would
have been 3 today

By Susan Kreifels


Cedra Edwards would have been 3 today, her grandmother says.

But instead of preparing for her birthday, Renita Edwards was testifying yesterday in the murder trial of her daughter, accused of four days of brutal beatings that led to Cedra's death.

Edwards and Cedra's grandfather were her foster parents between June and November 1996, before Cedra was given to another family.

In August 1997, Cedra was returned to her mother, Jennifer Edwards, who was living with a boyfriend. Jennifer Edwards is accused of the second-degree murder of Cedra on Dec. 17, 1997.

Cedra's death "has haunted me with what ifs," Renita Edwards said yesterday outside the courtroom, saying her religion has kept her strong.

Her husband was devastated upon learning of Cedra's death. "I've never seen him fall to his knees."

The government's main witness is the defendant's former boyfriend, Mika Mika Jr., who testified that he saw Jennifer Edwards punch Cedra, stomp on her stomach and refuse to give anything to drink to the 20-month-old in the days leading to her death. Cedra died of a ruptured bowel.

The defense says that Mika abused Jennifer Edwards and that the defendant suffered a troubled childhood.

Renita Edwards said her husband was a strict disciplinarian who beat her oldest daughter once but only yelled at Jennifer Edwards. She said the couple spent $28,000 on counseling to help Eddie Edwards Sr. deal with his temper and keep their family of six children together.

Renita Edwards, a tax office manager, said outside the courtroom that she first went to Child Protective Services because her daughter wasn't being a responsible mother and was leaving the child with friends. She called her daughter "headstrong" but said she never saw her daughter abuse Cedra.

Jennifer Edwards was very angry at her family for taking Cedra away. While Cedra stayed with the family, Renita Edwards complained about a new social worker, who then brought up the child abuse problems with her husband years earlier. The state then took Cedra away.

Renita Edwards said Mika felt uncomfortable with her family and that he refused to let her daughter visit them.

She also believes Mika was abusive to her daughter, saying she once saw Mika grab her and push her against the wall when she was doing laundry in her parents' home.

Twice Jennifer Edwards said she wanted to move away from Mika but then changed her mind, her mother said.

Renita Edwards said she never saw Mika hit Cedra but she believed the boyfriend resented the child. For example, she said Mika was angry that he had to pay for Cedra's first birthday party.

"He did not like that baby," Renita Edwards said outside the courtroom. "There's more to this than just a young mother who may have lost her temper."

Mika said he didn't take Cedra to the hospital even though he believed she might be dying because he was afraid he would lose the couple's son, only a few weeks old.

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