Nicole Diggs, 32, a special education teacher working at P.S. 152 Evergreen Elementary School in Bronx, New York, was charged with negligent homicide and child endangerment in the 2012 death of her severely disabled eight-year-old daughter, Alayah Savarese. Newsday reported on Aug. 31 that the mom stands to inherent close to $1 million from her daughter’s trust fund — even if she’s found guilty of the death of her little girl.
Charged along with Diggs is her husband, Oscar Thomas, 27, who is not Alayah’s father. Both Diggs and Thomas pleaded not guilty to their charges on Wednesday. Prosecutors in Westchester County say that Diggs and Thomas killed the little girl “by withholding food and medical care.”
It’s been alleged that Alayah "was not provided required daily food," nor did she get the medical treatment required for her condition which worsened due to her neglect. Prosecutors say that the eight year old “was often left unattended and was frequently kept home from school, depriving her of physical and occupational therapy.”
Officials investigating the case say that the child suffered welts, bruising and lacerations resulting from her severe neglect. Court documents also state that Diggs and Thomas also "failed to maintain the child's hygiene which caused her to have smelly and dirty hair and clothing, a foul odor about her body and bleeding gums."
Court papers went on to state that on the day Alayah died at home in her Yonkers, New York, apartment, she was being watched by a friend of Thomas’. The friend wasn’t equipped to deal with the child’s medical condition, according to court documents.
Diggs earned approximately $70,000 annually teaching at P.S. 152. In 2006, the mom was awarded a $2.1 million trust established in Alayah’s name resulting from a medical malpractice suit brought against the Ithaca hospital where Alayah was born with complications, according to The News Journal.
Now that Alayah is dead, the mom could inherent $1 million from her daughter’s trust fund, even if convicted in her murder. One-half of the trust, approximately $1 million, could go to Anthony Savarese, Alayah's biological father. Savarese, also living in Yonkers, was not charged in his daughter’s death.
The murder charges lodged against Diggs do not specifically state that money was a motive in Alayah’s death. Still, Diggs' defense lawyer said that the prosecutors in the case are trying to imply that Diggs “somehow disposed of her daughter in order to obtain the money."
If convicted, the 32-year-old Diggs wouldn't be automatically disqualified from inheriting her daughter's fortune because she isn't charged with intending to kill the girl. Many states have so-called slayer statutes to prevent profiting from a crime, but New York courts have generally held that without intent, a homicide doesn't disqualify someone from inheriting from a victim, said St. John's Law School professor Margaret Turano, a trust and estate expert.
Diggs, still employed by the New York City Public School System, has been transferred out of P.S. 152 and has been relegated to an administrative position. Pending the outcome of her case, she’s not allowed to have contact with any students. Diggs will not be able to use any of the funds from her daughter’s trust fund to pay for her legal expenses.