TAMPA — Prosecutors say Katrina Brooks' 9-month-old son drowned after she left him with only his toddler sister for as long as 30 minutes in an overflowing bathtub.
On Monday, they began making their case that Brooks should be found guilty of aggravated manslaughter of a child and child neglect, charges that could send her to prison for decades.
But Assistant Public Defender Samantha Ward asked jurors to consider the misfortune that preceded the tragedy. Brooks was pregnant and a high school dropout by 17. Pregnant again within a year after the first baby. Jobless and isolated with two children in a trailer after her boyfriend landed in prison.
"It's a case about a child who was raising children," Ward said. "She was not abusive or neglectful toward her child. She was alone. She was doing the best that she could for her children, and she forgot that the water was running."
Brooks, 21, cried as attorneys and witnesses recounted the events of Aug. 8.
She put her children in the bathtub after her aunt, Sherrill West, stopped by for a quick visit.
The women sat in the den, talking about marijuana. Jurors won't hear that detail, however, because Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente ruled it prejudicial and irrelevant.
West estimated they chatted for 30 to 40 minutes. As she left the trailer, Brooks came running out of the bathroom carrying her limp and blue baby, West said.
The mother would first tell authorities that she had left Gene Vincent Kent unattended for just five minutes. She later admitted it was longer.
Sheriff's deputies asked her to recreate the scene. Assistant State Attorney Anthony Duran said it took at least 11 minutes for the tub to overflow.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or