For the first time, the caseworker assigned to monitor 4-year-old Marchella Brett Pierce is speaking out.
"The portrayal of you is just someone who didn't care and just let this child die," said Eyewitness News investigative reporter Sarah Wallace.
"And that's far from the truth. My whole life has been dedicated to helping children," said Damon Adams, a caseworker.
For 37-year-old Damon Adams, earning a master's in child development was the crowning achievement of a stellar academic career that began when the Harlem teen won a scholarship to an elite Connecticut Boarding school.
In college he excelled, too, as track and football star, but he pursued his passion, becoming a social worker with the Brooklyn office of the Administration for Children's Services.
"And even though I know ACS would be a challenging job I got into it so I can help families and so I can help children and save kids and get them out of tough situations," Adams said.
Adams claims he was stunned, last September, to learn that one of his cases in Bedford-Stuyvesant had exploded into a murder investigation.
The victim, a frail 4-year-old named Marchella Brett-Pierce.
"I am very sad what took place about the death of Marchella, but I can sleep at night knowing that I did all that I could possibly do to help the family," Adams said.
Adams says there was no history of abuse at the home, but prosecutors say Marchella, who weighed 18 pounds, was tied to her little bed, beaten and starved.
"Did you have any reason to think that something was wrong with her in that house?" Wallace asked.
"No, I had no reason to believe this was the case. She had a lot of ailments, she was born prematurely and she spent the first four years of her life in the hospital, but at no point did I think something was wrong in the household," Adams said.
"Or with her?" Wallace asked.
"Or with her," Adams stated.
Prosecutors charged Marchella's mother with murder and the grandmother with manslaughter.
But last month, the DA's office took the unprecedented step of also charging Adams and his supervisor, Chareece Bell, with criminally negligent homicide for failing to protect the child.
"I mean, this is the first time a social worker has been charged criminally in a case," Wallace said.
"I mean, it's just a bad situation. We're talking about people who are out there to help people and now they're being charged as criminals. There's no way I can control what happened in that household after I was gone," Adams said.
Because of the legal case, his attorney wouldn't let Adams talk about how many visits he made to the home, or whether he added entries after Marchella's death, as prosecutors allege.
"The allegations are that between June and September, she was not visited," Wallace said.
"The allegations will be proven false. The allegations are outrageous," said Anthony Grandinette, Adams' Attorney.
"Do you believe you have any responsibility for the child's death?" Wallace asked.
"No, not at all. Emphatically not. Her death is a tragic death, but I did not play a role in what happened," Adams said.
Adams does say he was overwhelmed with more than 25 high-risk cases and that's the real issue here.
"It's a scary situation. And I believe why a lot of social workers relate to me so well is because this could happen to anyone," Adams said.
Damon Adam's friends and family have rallied around him, raising money for a legal defense fund.
He is due back in court next week.
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