An 8-year-old boy is being charged with beating a 1-year-old girl to death while they were left home alone as their mothers went to a nightclub, Birmingham, Alabama police said Tuesday.

Authorities in Alabama were struggling Wednesday to determine the fate of an 8-year-old boy accused of fatally beating a 1-year-old girl he was left to babysit while her mother went to a nightclub.

“This is by far one of the saddest cases that I have witnessed and been a part of since i became a police officer,” Birmingham Police Lt. Sean Edwards said at a news conference Tuesday.

Edwards said a murder warrant was issued for the boy after Kelci Devine Lewis was “viciously” beaten to death. She suffered severe head trauma and damage to internal organs, Edwards said. Her body was found in her crib the next day. Her mother, Katerra Lewis, was charged with manslaughter.

The suspect, the oldest of six kids left unattended in the home, became frustrated when Kelci would not stop crying, Edwards said. The tragedy occurred Oct. 11, but information was released just this week because of the slow process of investigating a case dealing with young children. A 6-year-old was a key witness, Edwards said.

The suspect and the surviving children were being cared for by state child welfare officials.

Edwards would not predict the fate of the young suspect, who won’t face adult courth, but said the youth would require several years of counseling.

Ted Sexton, a former Alabama sheriff who now teaches criminal justice at the University of Alabama, said there is a good chance the young suspect will be placed in a specialized foster home and provided counseling.

“Based on his age, the difficulty in proving intent and the options the court has, I would guess that he won’t be incarcerated,” Sexton told USA TODAY. “The court decision will be based on what can we do for this child to ensure that down the road he is not in this situation again.”

Edwards said all the investigators in the case were affected by the tragedy.

“One of the things we are trying to process is here is an 8-year-old being able to have such evil in his heart,” Edwards said. “You just think of an 8-year-old being a suspect. We’ve never had a case like this.”

Edwards did not say why the parents of the suspect were not charged, and he did not identify them. But he said the mother of the toddler was charged based on her “reckless” actions. He said the charge also sent a message to other parents that such “irresponsibility” is unacceptable.

“There is absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent this,” Edwards said. “But the community (must) do a better job to try and protect the lives of children.”

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