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    Monday, May 27, 2024

    Babysitter charged in near-drowning of toddler at casino

    A New London woman who was baby-sitting a toddler for a close friend has been charged with allowing the 2-year-old boy to nearly drown in a pool at Foxwoods Resort Casino in December 2010.

    According to state police, Habibah Abdul-Hakeem, 36, of 10 Franklin St., turned her back on the child for about three minutes during which she asked a pool attendant to take her picture with her cellphone. The boy slipped from the stairway leading into the pool, and by the time Abdul-Hakeem noticed, he was unresponsive at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. She jumped in and pulled him out, and pool attendant Sean Lewis revived him. The boy was hospitalized, but he did not appear to suffer any serious or life-threatening injuries, according to state police.

    Abdul-Hakeem is charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and risk of injury to a minor. She is free on a written promise to appear in New London Superior Court on Monday. Abdul-Hakeem works as an administrative clerk in the Huntington Street courthouse but has been on medical leave since March.

    According to an arrest warrant affidavit prepared by Trooper First Class Judson Kuwada, Abdul-Hakeem took the child, who is from New York, to the pool at the Great Cedar Hotel on Dec. 1, 2010. When she arrived, she received a text message from a male friend and "wanted to send him a photo of her showing how good she looked in her bikini." She said she heard the child splashing and "knew he was OK." She said she was aware he did not know how to swim, but because her children are older, she did not think to have him use a flotation device.

    State police used video footage from a security camera to build their case against Abdul-Hakeem, who told them confidently during an interview that she would "beat the charges" if arrested, according to the affidavit.

    The video showed Abdul-Hakeem walking into the pool at 2:09 p.m., the child behind her. While she kept walking out of range of the camera, he stopped at the stairs leading into the pool and sat down on the second step, partially submerging his body. He slipped, but was able to regain his balance. About 40 seconds later, he re-entered the pool. He slipped off the step from the seated position and went under water briefly. After several unsuccessful attempts to grab the side of the pool, he was "forced to flail his arms and push his legs off the pool floor to keep his head above water," according to the affidavit.

    As the child drifted into the center of the pool and struggled to stay afloat, the camera showed Abdul-Hakeem walk out of the view of the security camera toward the attendant's desk. Two minutes after the child fell into the pool, he appeared unresponsive and was completely submerged. About a minute later, just after 2:12 p.m., Abdul-Hakeem walked back into view of the camera and dropped her phone. While reaching to pick it up, she noticed the boy and jumped into the pool to save him.

    k.florin@theday.com