Nytosha Laforce
Nytosha Laforce (Burlington Free Press)

BURLINGTON -- The mother of a 15-month-old Winooski boy found dead last month pleaded not guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder.

Nytosha Laforce, 28, was arraigned in Chittenden County Superior Court and held without bail. Police documents filed after the arraignment describe toddler Peighton Geraw's short but troubled life, and the Department for Children and Families' earlier attempt to keep him safe.

A DCF worker visited Peighton minutes before the boy was pronounced dead, inspecting bruises on both sides of his neck. Minutes after the worker left, Laforce called 911, saying her son wasn't breathing.

The visit came two days after a hospital doctor notified DCF of possible child abuse after treating Peighton.

Autopsy results showed signs of shaken baby syndrome, including brain bleeding and neck injuries, according to court documents. Laforce's boyfriend ultimately named Laforce as the killer, police said.

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan after the arraignment Wednesday declined to say whether DCF failed Peighton.

A separate state police investigation will look at "what went wrong," he said.

"Obviously, it is concerning, the fact that we have a baby, an infant, being murdered," Donovan said.

If convicted of second degree murder, Laforce faces a sentence of at least 20 years in prison.