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Police say they had 'frequent' contact with mom accused of killing tot

Liz Evans Scolforo
505-5429/@LizScolforoYD
  • Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected is urged to call the state's ChildLine at (800) 932-0313.
  • The cause and manner of Bella's death has not yet been ruled on, as toxicology tests are not yet complete.

A Jackson Township woman accused of killing her toddler had nearly two dozen encounters with Northern York County Regional Police over the last seven years, records reveal.

Isabel Rose Godfrey, known as Bella, was killed June 8, 2016, allegedly by her mother.

Officers from that department had contact with Regina Lester 22 times between 2009 and June 8, when they found her 3-year-old daughter, Isabel Rose Godfrey, dead on the floor of Lester's Chesapeake Estates home, according to police. Bella, as she was called, had numerous bruises on her body and several deep bite marks on her torso, according to charging documents.

Northern Regional Sgt. Gregg Anderson described Lester's contacts with his department as frequent and for a variety of calls.

Nine of those encounters were requests for assistance, either made by Lester or somehow involving Lester, Anderson said.

Requests for assistance encompass a wide range of scenarios, according to the sergeant, including overseeing child exchanges for people in custody disputes, helping with neighbor issues, assisting ambulance crews and even helping with something as innocuous as cats stuck in trees.

Slain tot's baby sitter says Bella was loved, but neglected

"It's any time people want to talk to the police about anything they think is police-worthy" but isn't criminal in nature, Anderson said.

'Suspicious activity': Four of the encounters were for suspicious activity, he said, and either involved Lester calling to report such activity or someone calling to report suspicious activity at her property. Those calls were either unfounded or not criminal, the sergeant said.

Regina Lester is in York County Prison without bail, accused of killing her 3-year-old daughter.

Four other encounters involved possible criminal matters, according to Anderson. However, York County court records show just one criminal case filed against Lester, aside from her current charges in Bella's death.

In March, Northern Regional Police charged her with making false reports to law enforcement and criminal mischief. A month later, the false reports charge was withdrawn and the mischief charge was dismissed, court records state.

Lester, 30, of 265 Chesapeake Estates, also was cited for traffic violations twice during that time period, the sergeant said.

Police were called to her home twice for medical issues, according to Anderson.

Slain toddler's grandmother blames synthetic pot

Andrew Day, who regularly baby-sat Bella and said he's known Lester for six years, said one of those medical calls happened in the past couple of months and was for a man at Lester's home who suffered a heroin overdose but who was revived at the scene.

Anderson said he could neither confirm nor deny Day's assertion, noting that information is protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act.

Fair trial at issue: The sergeant declined to release specific information about any of Lester's police encounters, except for the one in which charges were filed.

He said that's because he does not want to jeopardize the homicide prosecution and also because Lester has the right to a fair trial in which jurors haven't been prejudiced by media reports.

West Manchester Police cited her with harassment in July 2013 for repeatedly punching her then-boyfriend in the nose during a domestic dispute, causing it to bleed profusely, according to the citation. She later pleaded guilty and paid a $300 fine, records state.

County court records reveal that District Judge Thomas Reilly granted monetary judgments against Lester and for Chesapeake Estates four times for her failure to pay rent between 2014 and March of this year.

Hospitalized: Lester — who graduated from Spring Grove Area High School in 2005 and from York Technical Institute for business administration/hospitality in 2007, according to York Dispatch reports — was admitted to York Hospital June 8 after Northern York County Regional Police arrested her for allegedly killing Bella. She was transferred to York County Prison on Tuesday, according to prison records.

Official: York-area mom accused of killing tot was being drug tested

She's charged with homicide, child endangerment and making terroristic threats.

Lester's charging documents state that officers responding to her home shortly after 6 p.m. June 8 found open packages of synthetic marijuana near Bella's body, as well as a smoking pipe.

Lester was naked and acting erratically when officers arrived at the scene and told Day she had to kill Bella to get the "darkness" out of her, according to documents. Lester also allegedly threatened to kill a neighbor's children, police have said.

Day told The York Dispatch that Lester told him "synth" was her "DOC," short for drug of choice. It was Day's home where Bella's 6-year-old brother fled for help, telling Day, "My mommy’s killing Bella — you need to come quick,’” Day told The York Dispatch.

Friends, neighbors and loved ones created this memorial for 3-year-old homicide victim Isabel Rose Godfrey for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the tot.
(Amanda J. Cain photo)

Lester was a client of the York County Office of Children, Youth and Families and was being drug tested by the agency, according to York County spokesman Carl Lindquist. She also was receiving in-home services from an agency that contracts with CYF, he said.

Synthetic marijuana doesn't show up on typical drug tests, according to Chris Goldstein, a Philadelphia-based advocate for marijuana consumers and patients. The biggest users are people who are regularly drug tested, he said.

Lester's mother, Robin Godfrey, told The York Dispatch that Lester was being drug tested every three days, but not for synthetic marijuana.

Godfrey also said she saw her daughter an hour before Bella's death, and that Lester was acting normally and seemed fine. The grieving grandmother blames synthetic marijuana for the tragedy.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.