3-year-old found dead at North Miami home amid signs of torture

Miami HeraldJanuary 21, 2014 

North Miami police car sits outside of the apartment building where a 3-year-old boy was found dead. EMILY MICHOT / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

NORTH MIAMI -- North Miami police are investigating the death of a 3-year-old boy whose body showed signs he had been burned, tortured and possibly sexually abused. His mother was being questioned.

The youngster was taken by ambulance to Jackson North shortly after 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, but doctors said he most likely had been dead for at least three hours, according to Maj. Neal Cuevas, a department spokesman. Police had not yet divulged the identify of the child, or his 21-year-old mother, who was living at 12501 NE 13th Ave.

“There were signs of abuse on every inch of his body, and he really suffered,” Cuevas said. Cuevas added that the abuse to the child had been ongoing, and that there evidence of both “past and present abuse.”

“There were signs of his being burned — his lips, his face, his fingers,” Cuevas said.

The child’s mother told police that she had picked the toddler up from the airport only two weeks ago, following an extended stay with relatives in Haiti, and the mother said the boy had been hurt there, not in South Florida. But both Cuevas and a Miami Herald source said the boy had “fresh” injuries that could not have occurred weeks ago.

North Miami police are in touch with their counterparts with the Haitian National Police, Cuevas said, so that officers there can investigate the mother’s claim that the boy had been abused in Haiti.

The boy’s two siblings — a 4-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy — both were taken into state care early Tuesday by the Department of Children & Families. A hearing in which DCF will ask a judge to allow the state to maintain custody could occur as early as Wednesday.

Esther Jacobo, DCF’s secretary, told the Herald her agency had received three prior reports on the family, all in the year 2010.

The first two reports to the agency’s abuse and neglect hotline suggested that the mother may have needed help from the state, as she was only 17 and giving birth to her second child with an adult male. The third report, received two weeks later, involved allegations that the mother and her boyfriend had engaged in domestic violence. The report did not contain any claims that the deceased child was harmed in the incident, Jacobo said.

The mother received services from the state designed to improve her parenting skills, “and we hadn’t heard from [the family] since,” Jacobo said.

Police and Herald sources suggested Tuesday the child had been “tortured,” with trauma to his head and injuries consistent with having been whipped by an extension cord.

“I’ve been with the North Miami Police Department for 40 years,” Cuevas said. “I’ve seen so much in every aspect of law enforcement. Listening to what I heard this morning from investigators literally brought tears to my eyes.”

“Just to imagine that this 3-year-old was living not five blocks from the police department — and suffered like this,” Cuevas added.

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