Andrea Walker, the 33-year-old Memphis mother who is the prime suspect in the continuing disappearance of her seven-week-old daughter, entered a not guilty plea Monday during an appearance in Shelby County General Sessions Court.
Walker remains behind bars on a $500,000 bond as the investigation into the disappearance of her daughter, Aniston, is conducted by Memphis Police homicide detectives. But her attorney Leslie Ballin warns the public not to jump to conclusions about his client.
It's one of the basic tenets of criminal law. A person is innocent until proven guilty. But no where under the law is a there provision that requires a suspect or defendant to tell authorities information that could establish their innocence or guilt.
That's the tightrope the child abuse suspect has strangely chosen to tread even as her infant daughter remains missing.
In some quarters defense attorneys are sarcastically referred to as "mouthpieces," but in the case of Walker, the alleged chief suspect in the disappearance of Baby Aniston, the reassuring representation of Ballin, a noted Memphis attorney, at her court arraignment gave her one of the most vocal client advocates in the legal field.
Outside the courtroom Monday morning, the wily Ballin was in full "spin control" mode.
"It's very important from our side that no one rush to judgment on this case," he said. "Do not rush to judgment in this case. We entered a not guilty plea. I know I sound like a broken record, but, do not rush to judgment. This is not Salem, Mass."
Shelby County prosecutors aren't buying some "black magic" theory either, in proceeding with a four-count affidavit charging the 33-year mother with aggravated child abuse and neglect. After days of questioning by authorities, Walker apparently has not budged from her original story of leaving her baby home alone with her three-year-old son in order to take her five-year-old to school.
She alleges when she came back, Baby Aniston was gone. A massive three-day grid search around Walker's Northeast Memphis home ended with no results Saturday night. Strapped with a $500,000 bond, Walker remained stoically silent in court.
"As far as where the child is, isn't that the $24,000 question?," Ballin said. "As to conclusions that she is responsible for that child being missing, that's what the case is about right now."
Aniston's disappearance and her mother's refusal to cooperate with authorities about her whereabouts, is drawing eerily similar comparisons to the September 2010 missing child case involving Shakara Dickens and her nine-month-old daughter Lauryn. Despite Dickens finally admitted to strangling her child two years later, her body was never found.
Ballin says it's likely prosecutors could up the charges against Walker, to possibly homicide, before she returns to court for a bond hearing on Jan. 21.
In the meantime, Ballin is also working on a motion to dismiss the current charges. How, would you "spin" that one, counselor?
"Our legal position is there is an assumption, that I've asked no one jump to, that's he's responsible for seriously bodily injury at this point, on her child," Ballin said. "Where's the proof?"
The mother of a missing baby girl is due in court this morning.
Andrea Walker is charged with aggravated child neglect and endangerment.
Last Thursday, Walker reported her 7 week old daughter, Aniston missing. Police say she told them she left the baby home alone with her three year old son so she could take her oldest child to school, and when she got back home, Aniston was missing.
Investigators suspended the search for Aniston on Saturday.