WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A severely disabled 8-year-old girl found dead in June 2012 in an apartment in Yonkers, N.Y., after years of reported neglect, had a nearly $2.1 million trust that had been established for her care, Westchester County probate records show.
That money, put into a trust after her mother won a medical malpractice settlement, is now part of Alayah-Rose Savarese's estate, which her parents are set to inherit as a criminal probe continues into her death, records show.
The Westchester County District Attorney's office declined to comment Monday on the estate. To date, no charges have been filed in the case.
Hudson Valley Bank, which handled the trust, was appointed administrator of the estate in November 2012, records show, and has not yet distributed the vast majority of the funds.
Alayah, who had cerebral palsy and could not speak, walk or eat, was found dead June 25, 2012, in her mother's apartment with a ruptured stomach. Her mother's fiance had left her with a friend who didn't know how to tube feed her and wouldn't recognize whether she was having medical issues, a state child fatality report says.
The little girl, who required constant supervision and care, was dead an estimated four to six hours before EMS officials arrived at the apartment, despite the friend's claim that he checked on her twice that morning. A blunt — a cigar rolled with pot — was found in the apartment and the fiance and two of his friends who were there tested positive that day for marijuana.
“She could brighten up your day in a second. It doesn't matter what you were going through, you just had to look at that little girl. ”
— Anthony Savarese, Alayah's father
Prior to her death, six other complaints had been made with the state regarding Alayah's care, including that she was filthy, underfed, missed school and physical therapy. Medical records showed that between ages 5 and 6, Alayah "had dropped off the growth chart substantially." A doctor who specializes in child abuse consulted after her death said her growth trend would be classified as "failure to thrive," a condition that means a child is not getting enough calories to grow, the report says.
Her cause of death was listed as cerebral palsy and seizures, but the manner of death — whether it was an accident or homicide — has not been determined.
The trust was established after her mother, Nicole Diggs, a Cornell University graduate and special education teacher in New York City, won a settlement in a 2006 lawsuit against Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, N.Y., where Alayah was born.
A week before Alayah's death, Westchester County Department of Social Services workers responded to the apartment on reports that she had missed half the school year and had unexplained bruises. At that time, a caseworker suggested Diggs hire a health aide or explore other avenues of support, but Diggs said, "she did not want the government to try to recoup any money from the settlement," the report says.
Diggs and her lawyer in the probate proceedings, Jay Sangerman, declined to comment Monday. Alayah's father, Anthony Savarese, could not be reached for comment and his lawyer for the proceedings, Liam McLaughlin, declined to comment.
Last month, Savarese described Alayah as "my strength. She could brighten up your day in a second. It doesn't matter what you were going through, you just had to look at that little girl. She would make the hardest, cold-hearted person in the street into a sucker."
Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to appeal a court ruling this month prohibiting them from presenting county Department of Social Services records of five unfounded complaints that had been made with the state regarding Alayah's care to a grand jury.
The ruling, by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Second Department, leaves it to the judge presiding over the grand jury to decide whether prosecutors can present two other substantiated complaints