Bronx aunt wants custody of nephew after niece slayed

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THE BRONX -

An aunt is trying to gain custody of her 1-year-old nephew after authorities say her 2-year-old niece was killed.

 Sylvia Pantoja says in order to gain custody of her nephew, she needs her own two-bedroom apartment. She says she is trying to raise enough money to afford one.

 Wilfredo Pantoja Jr., Sylvia's 1-year-old nephew, was released from an Ohio hospital Tuesday, severely malnourished. The boy's sister and Sylvia's niece, Rosalie Pantoja, was pronounced dead at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center on July 12 after authorities say she suffered a laceration to her liver.

Sylvia says her brother, the father of the children, split from their mother about a year ago and moved back to the Bronx. She says her brother's rights to see his son Wilfredo Pantoja Jr. have been terminated, but has not disclosed the reason why.

 The mother of the children, Josephina Upson, is charged with three counts of child endangerment. Her current boyfriend, Thomas Smith III, is charged in connection to Rosalie Pantoja's death. The two were living in Cincinnati at the time of the girl's death. Upson faces up to four and half years in prison and her boyfriend faces 30 years to life in prison.

 Sylvia Pantoja says she wants Upson to be charged with more than just child endangerment because she believes she's equally responsible for Rosalie Pantoja's death.

In a recorded phone call released to News 12 by the family, Upson's mother questions her a day after her granddaughter's death. Upson allegedly implicated her boyfriend, saying, "he punched Rosalie in her stomach."

 Upson and Smith III are scheduled to appear before a grand jury later this month.

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