MEDFORD — A 34-year-old woman was charged today with assaulting a 1-year-old girl who subsequently died, but the woman’s defense attorney portrayed her as a caring nanny who played no role in the “unspeakable tragedy’’ of the baby’s death.
Aisling McCarthy Brady pleaded not guilty in Cambridge District Court to a charge of assault and battery, a charge that is expected to be upgraded to murder when the state medical examiner’s office completes its autopsy of the baby girl, Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Katherine Folger said.
Brady allegedly attacked Rehma Sabir of Cambridge, who was in her care, on the baby’s first birthday early last week. The baby died two days later.
Brady, who was in the prisoner’s dock in court today but hid herself from public view, was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail.
According to prosecutors, the baby suffered “massive brain swelling’’ as a result of being assaulted by Brady on Jan. 14. The child was rushed to Children’s Hospital Boston, where she was pronounced dead Jan. 16.
While an autopsy is still pending, Folger said doctors have already found evidence that the child had an existing fracture in her left arm and leg and that there were significant signs of prior injuries.
In court, Folger outlined the prosecution’s version of the events of that day. Folger said the infant — whom she described as a “healthy, normal, well-baby’’ — woke around 8 a.m. and was cared for by her mother and the nanny.
The mother left the home around 9:30 a.m., leaving the infant in the sole care of Brady, the prosecutor said. The child napped from about 10 a.m. to about 1:15 p.m., the prosecutor said. But at 4:42 p.m., Brady called 911 and asked for medical help.
“It is very clear the only person who had contact with this child at the time of the injuries [on Jan. 14] was the defendant,’’ said Folger.
Defense attorney Melinda Thompson said the child had been traveling overseas in recent weeks, which included stops in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. “Who knows what could have happened?’’ Thompson said.
When the child returned to the United States, Thompson said, she was diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition, Thompson said.
“It didn't happen, Your Honor, by Miss [Brady’s] hand,’’ Thompson said of the infant’s death. “There is more to the story than you’ve heard.’’
Thompson added, “This is an unspeakable tragedy... [but] Miss McCarthy has no idea what happened to this child.’’
Thompson said Brady was so close to the family that she spent hours with them while the child was being cared for at the hospital. And when Brady was not at the hospital, the child’s family texted updates to her, Thompson said.
“She was mourning this child with the family,’’ Thompson said.
Immigration officials said this afternoon that Brady was an Irish citizen who was in the country illegally and they would seek her deportation after the case against her was resolved.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said Brady had entered the United States from Dublin in 2002, under an international agreement that allows visitors to stay in the United States for 90 days without a visa or other immigration documentation.
Brady never left the United States, according to ICE.
“She entered the United States Aug. 11, 2002, with authorization to visit the US as a tourist for up to 90 days,’’ ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said in a statement. “She did not depart as required. This [arrest in connection with the child’s death] is her first encounter since that time with immigration officials.’’
Once the state charges against Brady are resolved, ICE will move to automatically deport her to Ireland, he said. Feinstein said that under the program in which Brady entered the United States, she effectively waived any right to appeal a deportation order to the immigration courts.
Court documents also indicated that Brady had been in legal trouble before, with two restraining orders taken out against her and a charge of assault and battery that was eventually dismissed.
Brady had posted her profile onto sittercity.com looking for work, and the website today removed that posting after she was arrested.
“Immediately upon learning of this situation, we removed Ms. Brady from the Sittercity network, terminated her membership and notified members with whom she had ever communicated even though she has not been active on Sittercity for nearly a year,’’ the Chicago-based company said in a statement.
The company said that it routinely conducted background checks that include checking to see if a sitter is listed as a sex offender and using the LexisNexis database company to check “available state, county and federal criminal records databases.’’
Brady has no criminal convictions in Massachusetts.
“The Sittercity team is deeply saddened about this situation,’’ the company said in its statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.’’Peter Schworm can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobePete. John R. Ellement can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.