What to Know
- A criminal complaint revealed horrific details in the case
- The boyfriend of the dead child's mother allegedly attacked the 6-year-old after he defecated in their living room
- Both he and the boy's mother have been arrested
The 6-year-old boy who died after being rushed from his New York City apartment Tuesday had been hit repeatedly with a wooden broomstick and hung from his shirt on the back of a bathroom door by his mother's boyfriend, authorities say.
The man, 42-year-old Rysheim Smith, became enraged when he saw that the boy, Zymere Perkins, had defecated in the living room of their Hamilton Heights apartment on West 135th Street, according to a criminal complaint detailing the horrific abuse.
Smith began hitting the boy across the head and body with his hands and a wooden broomstick, in plain sight of the boy's mother, 26-year-old Geraldine Perkins, according to the complaint.
Perkins told police that Smith continued to beat the boy even after he went limp.
Smith then carried the boy to the bathroom and hung him by his shirt on the back of the door, then left the apartment, according to the complaint. The mother went to take Zymere off the door and put him on the bed, leaving him unconscious.
She told police she went to rest and read the Bible, and when she went to check on the boy later in the afternoon, he would not wake up, the complaint states.
That's when she dressed the boy and carried him to the street, hailing a taxi to the hospital. Neighbors told NBC 4 New York that Perkins came running out of the home with the boy's limp body in her arms, saying he fell in the bathtub and wasn't breathing.
"The body was lifeless," said Chauncey Brown. "The arms were dangling, stuff like that."
Witnesses said the boy was covered in bruises and scratches and had what they described as "welts" on his stomach; they said they hadn't seen the marks prior to Monday.
Police were seen Tuesday examining a broken broomstick in a crime van.
It wasn't the first time the boy was abused by the man and his mother, authorities said. The complaint stated that Perkins admitted to police that she'd watched her boyfriend beat, punch and hit her son over the course of "many months," including with his hands, fists and broomsticks and other weapons.
She also watched him lift her son by his neck on "multiple occasions," the complaint stated.
The abuse started before Perkins and her son moved into Smith's apartment over the summer. The apartment was described in the complaint as filthy, with no electricity, rotting food in the fridge, roaches everywhere, and filled with mold, rust and mildew in the bathroom.
The mother also admitted to hitting her son herself numerous times, the complaint said.
An autopsy on Zymere revealed bruises on his torso, bruises and finger marks on his neck, multiple old fractured ribs and other injuries.
Several people had reported their concerns about Zymere to police and child protective workers at the city's Administration for Children's Services, sources told NBC 4 New York Wednesday. They included staff members at the homeless shelter where Perkins and her son lived for about a year and a half beginning in 2014, according to sources familiar with the case. The two left the shelter in July.
At one point in April, Zymere ended up at the Manhattan Child Advocacy Center, where children are evaluated for signs of abuse. He was interviewed and observed by a doctor, an ACS staffer and a representative from the Manhattan district attorney's office, sources said. The child denied his mother hit him, and no physical signs of abuse were apparent so prosecutors did not move forward with the case.
Meanwhile, Department of Education sources also confirmed that Zymere's school had initiated an investigation into his attendance and tried to contact the family after the child failed to show up to school this fall.
Mayor Bill de Blasio promised a thorough investigation into Zymere's death.
"I want to know what happened here," he said Wednesday. "It's unacceptable that this young man was lost."
Under this administration and Children's Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion, there has been added emphasis on keeping families together and on collaboration with families accused of abuse, as opposed to investigation of the families.
One person familiar with Zymere's case told NBC 4 that the family was receiving preventive services, but ACS has not confirmed that, citing confidentiality rules.
In New York currently, fewer children are being removed from parents and placed in foster care -- which is a good thing, experts say, as long as those children are not being left in risky situations.
Neighbors say Perkins was a sweet boy. They say his parents asked for money frequently, and that they never saw the couple with groceries.
Smith and Perkins were arrested on charges of child endangerment Wednesday. Sources say Smith has been arrested 13 times this year, including on weapons and drug charges.
Their attorneys could not immediately be reached Wednesday night. The two are next scheduled to appear in court Oct. 3.