Cesar Rodriguez, a 27-year-old unemployed security guard, had it in for 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, the daughter of Nixzaliz Santiago, his common-law wife.  After losing his job a few days before Christmas, Rodriguez increased the frequency of his daily beatings of the helpless, undernourished four-foot-tall girl.  Police records indicate that Rodriguez had been beating her for 18 months.  When he tired of his savage poundings, he would tie her to a chair that he then anchored to a radiator in a sealed-off room.  Neighbors living below claimed to have heard the child ramming the radiator in an attempt to free herself from the painful bondage.  Rodriguez rarely allowed Nixzmary to leave the room.  If she wanted to eat, he gave her cat food.  When she needed to relieve herself, he made her do so in a litter box.  We may never know why Rodriguez treated her this way.  We do know, however, that, on the night of January 11, life became catastrophic for Nixzmary Brown.

That evening, after watching her five siblings eat yogurt, Nixzmary, starving and weak, struggled to get some for herself.  Although suffering excruciating hunger pangs, Nixzmary probably figured it would be worth the almost-certain beating that the atavistic Rodriguez would deliver for undermining his tyrannical authority.  After learning that Nixzmary had broken his rule against her consuming anything other than cat food, Rodriguez angrily confronted the child.  Comporting herself like a saint, Nixzmary admitted she took the yogurt without his permission.  Irate, Rodriguez locked Nixzmary back in her prison and returned to his computer.  When his printer jammed, one of his stepsons fingered Nixzmary as the culprit.  This was the final straw: Rodriguez burst into the little girl’s hellhole of a prison and began beating her with his fists and whipping her with his belt.  When she started to lose consciousness, he carried her into the bathroom where he shoved her underwater.  Finally, he smashed her battered head against the faucet and let her naked, limp body flop to the bathroom floor.  District Attorney Catherine Dagonese succinctly described the child’s final moments of life: “She yelled out ‘Mommy, mommy’ and her mother did nothing.  She did nothing while her very own child was lying dying in front of her.”  Thus, we witnessed the ignominious end to the brief and heartbreaking life of seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown.

As upsetting as we now know the last few days of Nixzmary’s life to have been, the subsequent reaction of the press, the public, the city government, and the victim’s immediate family has been appalling in terms of finger pointing and an inability to recognize, let alone accept, responsibility for this crime.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked off the irresponsibility crusade by commenting the day after the murder, “We, as a city, have failed this child.  We should do everything we can to make sure we don’t fail the next child.”  With such a statement, Bloomberg held the entire city responsible.  When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.  Bloomberg’s poorly chosen words only exacerbate society’s blindness to cause and effect in the criminal arena.

Taken in context, the responses to this horrific crime leave one with little hope for the wretched and life-threatening existence of other abused children who are “falling through the cracks” of New York City’s gargantuan welfare system.  Despite budgeting $2.2 billion for 2006, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services’ army of 7,000 bureaucrats will continue to loll in their union-protected sinecures while filicide continues apace in Gotham.

Ultimate responsibility for the death of Nixzmary Brown belongs with Cesar Rodriguez, her murderer and the sire of two of her stepsiblings.  However, other parties not involved in the actual cold-blooded slaughter of the child deserve blame.  Nixzmary’s mother, who had six children by four different men, should have removed her child from this life-threatening monster with whom she shacked up as a common-law wife.  At Nixzmary’s funeral, Liurma Paulino, the mother of one of the victim’s classmates, stated the obvious fact that “a mother’s duty is to defend her child,” a concept completely lost on the city’s mayor and the minions of do-gooders who have flooded the airwaves with calls for increased spending and system-wide reform.  In a brazen abrogation of her maternal duty, Nixzaliz Santiago tried to save her own hide in a jailhouse interview a few days after her arrest.  “I’m scared, I’m scared.  They’re not going to believe I didn’t kill my daughter.  I’m innocent.  I didn’t kill her.”

Highlighting the tragedy of out-of-wedlock births and random family associations, Nixzmary’s biological father, a Pakistani immigrant using the single moniker “Mian,” deserves special mention.  Shortly after impregnating Nixzmary’s mother, Mian opted to have no further role in the life of his progeny.  Eerily, the first time he met his daughter was at her wake, where he magnanimously placed a rose in her casket before rushing out in a stream of crocodile tears.  Of course, neither elected officials nor the local media have thought to castigate publicly his complete absence from his daughter’s life.  Expecting him to protect his child from a murderer is a concept that is foreign to New York’s chattering classes, since orders of protection and doormen in high-rise apartment buildings suffice to thwart physical harm on the Upper West Side.  A real father would have confronted the child’s mother when (as reported in the tabloid press) his daughter missed 46 consecutive days of school.  A real father would also have sprung into action when neighbors reported seeing the grossly underweight child covered with bruises.  Alas, in an era of anonymous sperm donation and abortion on demand, it is no wonder that biological fathers abrogate their primary duty—the physical protection of their offspring.

The funeral, coming a week after her death, provided further illustration of the unnatural familial behavior extant in this odd grouping of sex partners and their luckless children as well as today’s inevitable Oprah-esque response to human tragedy.  Omar Santiago, Nixzmary’s maternal uncle who came to mourn his murdered niece at her final Mass, fell to the floor of the church in a maudlin display of grief.  His outburst was only alleviated when New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, doing a perfect imitation of Dr. Phil, walked over and, as the New York Times delicately reported, “embraced the man.  It was a long embrace, and they patted each other on the back.”  While this might make great copy for hypersensitive excuse makers, the rest of us could only wish that Mr. Santiago had been equally unrestrained in attempting to rescue his niece from Cesar Rodriguez’s predations.  In fact, one wonders why Mr. Santiago never intervened when he learned that his sister’s boyfriend appeared in her life after receiving a dishonorable discharge from the Army for storing child pornography on his personal computer.  Instead, a seven-year-old child who never had the most basic parental protection suffered the further indignity of having her funeral Mass turned into a tragicomic farce by a performing relative.

The list of those who could have intervened but did not continues ad nauseam, from the neighbors who heard Nixzmary banging the radiator nightly to her teachers and school administrators who did not make the necessary investigations during her 46 consecutive days of absence.  Predictably, the neighbors remain anonymous in today’s noncensorious media, while the teachers’ union leader issued such a flurry of press releases defending the remiss educators that it immediately brought to mind Shakespeare’s hackneyed quotation about the obvious guilt of those who protest too much.

We will not stop filicide anywhere until those responsible are held accountable rather than excused the way a pet owner might forgive his dog for an “accident” on the living-room carpet.  Sending Nixzmary’s parents to prison for the rest of their lives and spending more than the billions already budgeted for child-welfare services will not lessen the frequency of such atrocities.  Until we start holding responsible those nearest to the crime—those who have a duty to intervene—all the hot air and high dudgeon from elected officials, union representatives, and “family” members will only continue to enrage those with any sense of justice.