Prosecutors discuss possible motive for poisoning death of New Castle toddler during court hearing

NEW CASTLE — A New Castle family continues fighting for justice for their toddler who was killed in 2023.

Channel 11 was in court Tuesday as the woman accused of poisoning 18-month-old Iris Alfera faced a judge. That woman, Aleisia Owens, is Alfera’s father’s girlfriend.

>>> New Castle woman made incriminating Google searches before death of boyfriend’s toddler, police say

At Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, Channel 11 heard emotional testimony from Baby Iris’ mom. She teared up when she shared the final moments she had with her 1-year-old daughter before she passed away.

In court, Emily Alfera described her 18-month-old daughter Iris as bubbly and happy. Iris’ great-aunt said she was just like her mom.

“Iris had Emily’s personality, just always happy and always smiling,” said Crystal Joseph, Iris’ Great Aunt.

In January, New Castle police and the state Attorney General’s office arrested Aleisia Owens for Iris’ murder.

According to the criminal complaint, Owens was dating Iris’ dad and was left alone with the baby last June at a home along Electric Street. Police were called there for an unresponsive baby. Owens claimed Iris fell off a mattress that was on the floor but when Iris was taken to the hospital, doctors suspected her injuries were the result of child abuse. Iris died a few days later at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

A doctor with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office testified that Iris died from acetone poisoning. Channel 11 asked Iris’ great-aunt what justice looks like for their family.

“There is no justice. The only justice there could be in this world is to save another child because we could save Iris. That’s our only justice is to spread awareness and help other children. She can rot in jail for the rest of her life, that’s not going to bring Iris back so maybe we can save another child in honor of Iris,” said Joseph.

A detective with New Castle police testified that they found evidence of Owens researching online ways to seriously harm or kill a child with household products before Iris’ death.

Months before Iris died, Emily Alfera said Iris was hospitalized after ingesting several water beads, batteries and a metal screw.

Channel 11 learned a possible motive. The prosecution said Owens and Iris’s dad were fighting the day Owens was left alone with Iris. Owens claimed she was not getting enough attention from Iris’ dad.

Owens’s defense attorneys had no comment. Owens remains in jail and all charges were held for court.

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