What to Know
- Zymere Perkins was found covered in bruises, scratches and welts on his stomach when his mom brought him to the hospital in 2016
- The 6-year-old boy later died from what an investigation determined to be fatal child abuse syndrome
- Rysheim Smith, the boyfriend of Zymere's mother, was found guilty on all counts including murder and manslaughter
The boyfriend of a 6-year-old New York City boy's mother was sentenced to decades in prison Monday for the child's death, ending one of the highest-profile child abuse cases the city has seen over the past few years.
Rysheim Smith, 42, was found guilty last year of second-degree murder, first-and second-degree manslaughter and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child for his role in the horrific death Zymere Perkins in September 2016.
His sentencing had been scheduled for March 27 last year but was delayed due to the pandemic. Smith was finally sentenced Monday on five counts, the longest 25 years to life; all sentences will run concurrently.
“The death of Zymere Perkins was an unthinkable tragedy that sent shockwaves through the city and inspired a reckoning with how our social services system works to protect New York’s most vulnerable," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said after the guilty verdict in January 2020. "Zymere was an innocent and helpless 6-year-old boy who suffered unconscionable, ongoing violence at the hands of Rysheim Smith. Now, a Manhattan jury has rightly held the defendant accountable for this horrific murder."
Little Zymere died after a long pattern of abuse at the hands of Smith, prosecutors alleged. According to the criminal complaint against Smith, the Harlem apartment where Zymere lived was a vile, disgusting place infested with cockroaches and had no electricity. There was rotting food in the fridge and large amounts of mold, rust and mildew in the bathroom.
Zymere died Sept. 26 after what prosecutors say was months of abuse by his mother and Smith. The day he died, Smith allegedly beat him with a broomstick and hung him by his shirt over the back of the bathroom door. According to a criminal complaint, Zymere's mother Geraldine Perkins reported seeing Smith punch her son in the ribs and stomach multiple times and lift him by his neck.
His death was ruled a homicide by the city medical examiner. An investigation further determined that the child died from fatal child abuse syndrome, which means he showed evidence of acute and chronic abuse and neglect.
A damning state report after Zymere's death revealed several instances where individuals who cared about the little boy had called the Administration for Children's Services, starting when he was just a baby.
A tipster told the child abuse hotline Smith allegedly had hit Zymere at least 20 times at a June 2015 picnic while Geraldine Perkins neglected to interfere.
Geraldine Perkins testified against Smith at the trial, after pleading guilty to manslaughter. Smith's lawyers claimed Perkins was responsible for her child's death.
Five ACS case workers were placed on desk duty after Zymere died, and four others were suspended for a month without pay. A probe by Comptroller Scott Stringer's office found that at least 10 children died within three months under the city agency's watch.
Following the boy's death, ACS underwent sweeping changes in an effort to prevent future preventable tragedies.