Philadelphia woman accused of torturing 4-year-old to death held on murder charges

Kristen Johanson
January 28, 2020 - 5:49 pm
Samilya Brown

Philadelphia Police Department


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia woman accused of brutally beating, burning, starving and biting a 4-year-old child will be held on first-degree murder charges.

Samilya Brown avoided looking at horrific pictures of 4-year-old Zya Singleton’s battered body and shredded face on the screen, but many in the gallery gasped and sobbed at the gruesome sights. 

"The wound to Zya’s mouth and nose is visually the most disturbing," said homicide prosecutor Chesley Lightsey.

Lightsey questioned the medical examiner's autopsy detailing dozens of the child’s injuries, one of which authorities say was caused by Brown biting and tearing Singleton’s lip away from her face.

"And thinking that that child was being attempted to be stitched at home. You know, stitches in a regular situation would hurt, so I can't imagine what that felt like," Lightsey said. 


The medical examiner also testified to burns, infected wounds, torn skin, broken bones — calling it “the avalanche” that resulted in sepsis, the medical cause of 4-year-old’s death.

Brown’s defense team declined to speak, but argued to the reduce charges to third-degree murder, saying it wasn’t pre-meditated murder.

"I actually believe the intent is born out of weeks and weeks and weeks of not seeking true medical treatment," Lightsey said. 

The judge held the charge of murder generally, as well as child endangerment offenses.

Brown was Singleton’s caretaker after the biological mother notarized a letter stating so.


CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, Samilya Brown's name was misspelled.