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There’s been a harrowing number of Black children that have died tragically and inexplicably due to child abuse and it’s happening at an alarming rate in our community. The Sacramento Blue Ribbon Commission noted that child abuse and neglect homicide was the third-highest cause of death in African American children from 1990-2009.  Sadly, the numbers are growing. Child abuse cases have skyrocketed since 2014, with Black children accounting for 13. 8 percent of those cases. While perpetrators can be anyone from law enforcement to teachers and strangers, some of the egregious crimes are occurring at the hands of close relatives or even our children’s parents.
MADAMENOIRE takes a look back at several children whose lives could have been spared.

The Gruesome Death Of Kendrick Lee

On Oct. 24, the Black community was rocked by the chilling story that unfolded out of Houston, Texas when a 15-year-old boy from Harris County called police to reveal that he and his two younger brothers had been living in an apartment at the West Oaks residences surrounded by filth as their dead 8-year-old sibling, Kendrick Lee, lie decomposing in one of the rooms. For over a year, the boys were left to starve for months on end in their apartment.

Their mother, Gloria Y. Williams, and her boyfriend Brian W. Coulter were charged with the murder of the 9-year-old’s skeletal remains. According to the children, Coulter repeatedly punched Kendrick in his back and face — then covered him with a blanket when he appeared dead. Williams fought with her disgraced boyfriend after she discovered Kendrick’s dead body, but the couple fled shortly after, leaving the children behind to fend for themselves.
Residences at the West Oak complex would occasionally check up the children giving them food. Some even sensed that there was something wrong, but no one stepped in to help. Williams’s close family members told Houston’s KPRC News that they were unaware of the children’s horrific abuse as the mother of six had isolated herself away from family, only reaching out if she needed money.
Williams maintained her innocence when authorities asked if she played a role in Kendricks’s death. “I’m sorry. I didn’t do it,” she told Khou 11, adding that she regularly checked on the boys every two weeks.
According to a report on ChildWelfare.gov, children living in homes where domestic violence is present, in particular, are at a greater risk of experiencing abuse. Out of 35 percent of neglect cases, domestic violence was a reoccurring factor. Caregivers who might be enduring abuse may be too afraid to speak out against the actions of their lover or partner. The report also notes that parents who neglect their children often isolate themselves from social support, like family and friends, making it harder for close relatives to detect abuse.

Numerous environmental factors can contribute to neglect and abuse including poverty, living in an unsafe community, or family turmoil. It can also stem from substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence, marital strife, financial stress, and single parenthood. Abusive and negligent behavior often trickles down to children whose parents were previously abused throughout childhood.

Maliyah Bass’ Tiny Body Was Found In A Storm Drain

In 2020, the body of 2-year-old Maliyah Bass was pulled out from a Houston bayou after authorities alleged her mother Sahara Ervin and her boyfriend Travion Thompson of killing her before placing the toddler’s tiny body in a sewage drain.
Authorities believe Ervin killed Maliyah using an extension cord or hanger as her autopsy revealed that her “forearm was broken” and that she had sustained “superficial blunt force trauma appearing as a looped pattern of bruises all over her body.”

Thompson later confessed that he assisted Ervin with discarding Maliyah’s body in the storm drain, ABC 13 reported. The disgraced boyfriend said he would work with officials to bring the troubled mother to justice, but the act was nowhere near heroic. When police arrested Ervin, she posed for the camera with a sinister smile.

 

Majelic Young Died During An Extended Time Out

A concerned social worker tipped off police about Majelic Young’s mysterious disappearance after she hadn’t seen the 4-year-old in months. Following a search warrant, police officials found young’s decomposed remains buried in her mother’s backyard in Charlotte, North Carolina. Majelic’s 13-year-old sibling witnessed her sister’s horrific death, telling authorities that her mother, Malikah Bennett, forced her younger sister to stand in a laundry room for three days after the toddler soiled herself on accident. She was not allowed to sit down or leave.

For three days Majelic stood in the laundry room until she eventually collapsed hitting her head on the ground. According to her sibling, Bennett placed Majelic’s body in two trash bags and hid her decomposing corpse in an SUV until the stench became unbearable. The sadistic mother then forced the 13-year-old to help her bury Majelic to cover up the egregious crime. The New York Post noted that Bennett’s mother, Tammy Taylor Moffett, 53, was charged for helping the deranged mother to conceal Majelic’s body.

Fear and shame play a large part in a child’s refusal to reveal their abuse, according to PsychCentral. Many kids fear that their abuse will become worse if they do tell. Some children do not feel as though they have a safe companion or person with whom they can confide in about their pain, and in the Black community, child abuse is often normalized and minimized, leaving children to internalize the effects of their abuse alone. It can also be used as a form of intimidation.

The Mysterious Disappearance Of Maleah Davis

The mysterious and vicious death of 4-year-old Maleah Davis sent Houston authorities into a desperate search to find the young toddler’s murder. Maleah vanished after she was under the care of her mother’s boyfriend Derion Vence. According to police officials, Maleah was last seen on April 2019, after surveillance footage captured her and her stepfather Vence entering their Houston home. Days later, the same camera captured Vence carrying a trash bag and bleach outside of his apartment.

Maleah’s biological father, Craig Davis, claimed he went to check up on his daughter in the days following her disappearance, but Vence refused to allow him inside his apartment citing that Meleah had the flu and that he didn’t want him to get sick, according to CNN. Maleah’s mother was also traveling during her daughter’s sad demise. Maleah’s body was found on the side of the road in a trash bag in Arkansas and Vence was slammed with 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to tampering with a corpse and injury to a child, KHOU 11 noted. 

 

Jamari Dent Was Bullied To Death 

The special needs student died following a suicide attempt back in June, after he suffered an onslaught of bullying from teachers, students and even faculty members at Chicago’s Evers Elementary and Carter G. Woodson Elementary. Jamari Dent’s mother, Tierra Black, claimed that officials failed to ensure her son’s safety and turned a blind eye to Jamari’s verbal and physical abuse at both schools. Black said she repeatedly asked the school to address the abuse, but they never did anything.

“They were put on notice that this abuse was occurring, but they chose to protect themselves instead of protecting young Jamari,” her attorney Jon Erickson added.

A faculty member allegedly called Jamari ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’ and “a dirty little n-gger.” Students chimed in on the harassment making disparaging comments including one instance where students teased him about how he would end up in a mental institution, the case documents read. One report suggests that a staff member at one of the schools put Jamari in a chokehold and slammed his head against the wall. Jamari attempted to hang himself to death in 2019 but died a year later from the injuries he sustained during the horrific incident.

After a long court battle, Black was awarded a massive $1.25 million settlement for Jamari’s death but the money doesn’t hold the school officials accountable who blatantly ignored the young teen’s strife and pain.

The Chicago Public School department issued a statement saying that they were “saddened to learn of the passing of Jamari.”  “Our deepest condolences and sympathies are extended to his loved ones,” a spokesperson from the department added.

 

13 -Month-Old Legacy Beauford Was Viciously Beaten To Death

The death of 13-month-old Legacy Beauford was horrific and preventable. The precious infant died back in September, after he was viciously beaten and sodomized to death by his mother’s boyfriend, Keishawn Gordon.  Gordon complained that the 1-year-old was “wouldn’t stop crying” and “kept throwing up.”

“He was irking me,” Gordon told officials, according to The New York Post. Sadly, the New York Police Department had been sent to his mother Jessica Melendez’s home four times in May, after neighbors complained of possible abuse, but police said they found no evidence.

Legacy bled to death from abdominal injuries. When Melendez was questioned about the incident, she told reporters that her neighbors often made 911 calls because she cared for several children at once and played music loudly.

 

Jayce Eubanks Died At The Hands Of His Abuser & The Child Welfare System

Jayce Eubanks died of battered child syndrome after his step-dad Jeremiah Johnson, 27, beat him to death. The city Medical Examiner’s Office noted that the 4-year-old boy’s body had suffered from blunt force trauma to his torso, a fractured skull, and freshly broken ribs. He also had a perforated stomach and bites on both ears.

A source close to the case told The New York Times that the NYPD had been alerted about previous abuse incidents involving the young boy just weeks before his death, but the cops never followed through on filing the complaint. The family was even interviewed by Safe Horizon, a child advocacy organization after Jayce and his 5-year-old brother exhibited signs of abuse. Both had injuries, but the children lied and said that they were playing around too rough with one another. Jayce’s family was given a referral for a medical appointment but they never went. His grandmother Ms. DelValle said that the family was never notified about scheduling a doctor’s visit.

Child Services was slammed following the major oversight. Susan Morely, a representative from the organization defended the organization’s response efforts.

“The challenge is that these cases are difficult. children are injured in accidents and get bruises — that same bruise if someone pushes the kid can be the same one if the kid trips.”

According to Morely, the agency’s decision to seek a physical exam is based on several factors, including how bad the child’s injuries appear, but some injuries like internal bleeding or brain damage are hard to detect she explained. It still doesn’t excuse the fact that police barely responded to the calls placed by concerned citizens and it paints a larger problem about the issue at hand. Has abuse been so normalized in communities of color that the police did not care to dig deeper into Jayce’s case? It’s a hard truth to grapple with. Child welfare typically receives abuse reports from their state hotline number, but the cases are assigned by how serious they are. The New York Times reported that “about 10 percent” are given to the instant response team. A caseworker and a patrol officer or Special Victims detective are supposed to visit the child within two hours, but the organization did not follow through on checking up with the family.

These children’s lives may have been preserved if the community and officials around them acted with with urgency and intervention. Instead these children died in plain sight—not only from abuse but also moral negligence. We have to do better.

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