Originally created 08/08/98

Babysitter blamed for infant's death



CANTON, Ga. -- A teen-age babysitter received a maximum 20-year prison sentence Friday in the 1995 death of a 14-month-old baby in her care.

Cande'su Argot, now 17, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. She was indicted on a murder charge in the death of Sarina Lurie, who died of shaken baby syndrome and blunt force trauma.

Miss Argot was released on bond shortly after her arrest and has been living with her mother, Cathie Argot, in eastern Pennsylvania.

"Three years after the death, she still denies her guilt or takes responsibility for her actions," Cherokee County Superior Court Judge Michael Roach said.

Miss Argot, who was 14 when Sarina died, pleaded innocent in March to murder and cruelty to children and then pleaded guilty in April to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Miss Argot addressed the court for the first time before she was sentenced.

"I'm very sorry," she said, sobbing.

Miss Argot's attorney, David Cannon, called the sentence harsh but said he does not know if Miss Argot will appeal.

During testimony, Dr. Jeffrey Smith, an associate state medical examiner, displayed photographs from an autopsy he performed on Sarina. He testified that besides the head and shaking injuries, the child had several clusters of bruises on her legs and buttocks.

Bruises on her right thigh were "reminiscent of fingermarks of a hand," Dr. Smith said, adding that he believes one of the bruises occurred at least 36 hours before Sarina died.

Dr. Smith also testified that the baby's right toe was healing from a burn mark that was "highly suggestive of an inflicted injury." Bruising around her ankle appeared as though something had been cinched around it, such as a string, cord or shoelace, he said.

Miss Argot lived with Sarina and her parents, Scott and Yvonne Lurie, for part of the summer when they moved from Pocono Lake, Pennsylvania, to this north Atlanta suburb.

In an emotional statement, Mr. Lurie told Judge Roach that justice needed to be served with a severe sentence.

He said he and his wife asked Miss Argot to accompany them to Atlanta for a summer job. He said they thought it would be a good opportunity for the teen-ager to see another part of the country and that they considered her "part of the family, so to speak."

"My life came crashing down on me July 10, 1995," Mr. Lurie said. "I felt I had the perfect life ... I was living the American dream. The penalty given here today cannot be severe enough because I can't have my daughter back."

After Sarina's death, the Luries divorced. Mrs. Lurie now lives in London with the couple's son.

Miss Argot's attorney, David Cannon, appealed for leniency by showing that at times Miss Argot had as many as five children under her care -- the Luries' children as well as each of their stepchildren who were visiting for part of the summer.