Police are still investigating whether the death of a severely malnourished 4-year-old girl yesterday was the result of parental neglect or severe health problems. Marchella Pierce was pronounced dead on the scene by police yesterday morning in her Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment. She weighed just 15 pounds, and had bruises and marks on her ankles that appeared consistent with twine that was found tied to the foot railing of a small bed in her mother’s bedroom. Medical examiners are currently working to determine the cause of death.

Her mother Carlotta Pierce is under scrutiny for the twine and the marks found on Marchella, as well as for waiting at least 90 minutes before calling 911 about her unresponsive daughter. Marchella's father, Tyrone Pierce (who is separated from his wife), said the little girl was born prematurely at barely more than a pound, with underdeveloped lungs. Doctors were forced to put a tube in her trachea, and she only recently began eating solid food through her mouth; she was in hospitals from birth until this past February. Marchella lived with her mother, two brothers, ages 6 and 9 months, and grandmother.

The family has been investigated by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services two times, according to the News: the first time because of allegations Pierce had marijuana in her system when Marchella was born, and the second time because the parents felt overwhelmed, and were seeking help. Police sources also told the News that narcotics were found in Pierce's Madison St. apartment, but charges had yet to be filed.