Prosecutors will be allowed to tell a jury about the poor care that 22-month-old Carmen Colucci received from her parents before her death, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza ruled Tuesday.
But the jury will not be told about the case of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, that took the life of another of the children of Randy and Nicole Colucci of 22nd Street, Niagara Falls.
The parents are to go to trial Jan. 31 on charges of murder and manslaughter in connection with Carmen's death.
The girl was found March 31 with her neck trapped between the top rail of her playpen and a mattress that had been placed atop it to keep her and her 11-month-old brother from getting out. The mattress was weighed down with a television set, police said.
Carmen died April 8 after being taken off life support in Women & Children's Hospital in Buffalo.
In April 2007, Sebastian Colucci died after living for 50 days, a case that was ruled as SIDS after it could not be otherwise explained.
Sperrazza said telling the jury about that case would be prejudicial and irrelevant to the charges against Randy Colucci, 25, and Nicole Colucci, 24.
But among the matters that will be allowed is an incident similar to the one that killed Carmen. On that occasion, Carmen was rescued by her 9-year-old stepsister, who found Carmen's head caught between the top of the playpen and the mattress.
The stepsister is expected to be a star witness at the trial, and Sperrazza ruled that what the girl says and how she says it may make other parts of the Coluccis' parenting record admissible.
Those issues include allegations that the Coluccis punished their children by duct-taping their legs to their wrists; that at least one child was struck with a stick; and that another was forced to eat dog food.
Child-endangerment charges regarding the treatment of the Coluccis' other children have been removed from the murder indictment and would be the subject of a separate trial.
At the time of Carmen's death, the 9-year-old was the oldest in a family of five children, not counting Sebastian. Nicole Colucci had another daughter in August. All the children are now in foster care.