Complaint Reveals Horror of 10-Year-Old NYC Boy's Death; Probe Launched Into Cops' Response

Ryan Cato, 34, faces two second-degree murder counts and one count of endangering the welfare in the death of little Ayden Wolfe

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What to Know

  • 10-year-old Ayden Wolfe was pronounced dead at a hospital at 4:20 p.m. Saturday; his stepfather now faces murder charges in the case
  • A witness reported hearing banging, thuds and threats coming from the apartment starting the afternoon before; that witness overheard a man yelling, threatening someone, as a woman said, "STOP"
  • The medical examiner ruled Wolfe's cause of death to be battered child syndrome; he was covered in cuts and bruises and had multiple broken ribs as well as a lacerated liver, kidney and spleen

A criminal complaint reveals chilling details in the murder case against a New York City man accused of killing his 10-year-old stepson, who was found beaten unconscious with multiple broken ribs and lacerated organs in his Manhattan apartment over the weekend.

The NYPD has also launched a review into its response to the building a day before the child died, when officers followed up on a call from a person who overheard alarming noises but couldn't identify the specific apartment from which they were coming, Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement Tuesday.

Both the stepfather, 34-year-old Ryan Cato, and the mother of the little boy, whose name was Ayden Wolfe, now face charges in his death. Cato is charged with two counts of second-degree murder. It's not clear what the mother faces just yet.

"To be clear, the person allegedly responsible for Ayden Wolfe’s death is Ryan Cato, who has been charged with murder in the second degree," Shea said. "Nonetheless, I have directed the Office of the Chief of Department to review the police response on Friday to determine if the officers’ actions were consistent with all department procedures and whether our current procedures need to be revised."

It's not clear if the 911 caller was the same person identified in a criminal complaint as a witness who indicated the boy was moaning in pain for a full day before he was found unconscious Saturday.

Police arrested and charged 34-year-old Ryan Cato on Sunday over the death of 10-yaer-old Ayden Wolfe. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.

Cops responding to a 911 call at Wolfe's home on West 131rd Street in Harlem that day found family members performing CPR on the naked child. He had cuts and bruises all over his body, law enforcement sources said, and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

According to a criminal complaint revealed Tuesday, a person known to the district attorney's office told investigators of overhearing banging and thuds and a man yelling in the child's apartment vicinity the afternoon before he died. The person said the man was yelling, "Do you want me to beat your a** too?" as a female voice pleaded, "STOP." The person also heard a soft voice moaning in pain.

The yelling and banging was said to have lasted about 40 minutes, the complaint says. Only Wolfe, his stepfather and his mother live in the Harlem apartment. Shea said police did respond to the same address that Friday, a day before Wolfe died, after getting a call about a domestic dispute on the fourth floor. The 911 caller couldn't provide an exact apartment number but described hearing banging and screaming in the hallway and said a kid was there.

"Two officers responded to the call and checked the fourth floor hallway. The officers went through the hallway, listened at doors, and checked the stairwell for any sound of a domestic dispute in progress. They remained in the hallway for approximately 12 minutes," Shea said Tuesday. "They used their department smartphones to read the narrative of the 911 call and confirmed that no apartment number had been given."

"The officers dialed the callback number related to the 911 call twice, several minutes apart, to determine if the caller could provide what direction the noise had come from but got a voicemail message both times," he added. "After not detecting any ongoing dispute or contact with a caller, they resumed patrol." 

Late the next morning, around 11:45 a.m. Saturday, the person again heard banging and thuds coming from the apartment. The person reported hearing the same male voice yelling, "You thought yesterday was something? You think this s*it is a game?" Again, the person reported hearing sounds of faint moaning.

A police officer responding to the emergency call later observed Cato had recent swelling to his right hand, according to the criminal complaint.

The medical examiner's office determined Wolfe's death to have been caused by battered child syndrome. The report said the child's body was covered from head to toe with bruises and abrasions on both arms and hands, both legs and feet, his head and neck and his torso. It found Wolfe had multiple broken ribs and a lacerated spleen, liver and kidney as well as a lacerated renal vein, resulting in hemorrhaging to the soft tissue. The autopsy indicated those injuries were recent.

Neighbors who have seen the family around the NYCHA complex say they were distraught by the news.

"The family told me he was a lovely little kid. They just had him with them a week ago. They didn't say anything, any inkling, any kind of physical harm or anything," said Stephanie McGraw.

While an investigation into exactly what happened to the boy is ongoing, the community was horrified by the loss of the boy and many fear the pandemic has made domestic violence too easy to miss.

Cato was remanded after his arraignment Monday night and is due back in court Friday. He is being represented by an attorney with the New York County Defender Services group, a public defense firm. An email seeking comment on his behalf wasn't immediately returned Tuesday morning.

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