Police: 4-year-old Pennsylvania boy beaten to death after spilling cereal

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Police say a Willow Grove couple killed their son after he spilled cereal

Authorities in Pennsylvania say a 4-year-old boy was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend after spilling cereal inside their Willow Grove home on Monday night.

The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office has charged 19-year-old Lisa Smith and 26-year-old Keiff King with aggravated assault, attempted murder and other related charges.

Investigators said the pair repeatedly hit little Tahjir Smith about the head and torso with their hands and a shoe after he spilled the cereal in his home on the 1800 block of Lukens Avenue.

According to court documents, Tahjir became unresponsive in the home and was slipping in and out of consciousness. Police say that's when his mother called 911 and then began to walk down the street with the child.

Around 6:10 p.m., first responders arrived to a call of a respiratory emergency. According to an affidavit, Smith, who is currently pregnant, was found wandering around outside her house with Tahjir lying nearby. Paramedics found the boy limp and unresponsive, and he was rushed to Abington Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Montgomery County Coroner's Office said an autopsy conducted Tuesday revealed that in addition to fresh injuries on the boy's body, old rib fractures were also discovered. The office is awaiting further test results before determining an official cause of death.

According to Smith's confession, she and King were disciplining the boy for spilling his cereal and made him get into a push-up position. She said they then "laid the boy on the bed with his pants and underwear removed, grabbed a blue Levi's sandal and repeatedly struck him."

She said King "punched Tahjir in the back of the head," before putting him in a scalding shower and burning him.

"This senseless death of a 4-year-old boy at the very hands of the adults who are supposed to care for him and keep him safe is a horrible tragedy," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said. "This is the face of domestic violence. A preschooler was beaten until he stopped breathing because he spilled his cereal."

Neighbors were shocked and saddened to learn of what had happened.

"I am heartbroken," neighbor Andrea Wurtzbacher said. "And to know that we live here and we couldn't do anything to protect the child really makes me sick."

Several said they don't really know much about the people who live inside of the home.

"They usually keep to themselves," neighbor Sam Evans said. "They've never really talked to anybody."

Neighbors also said the house is quiet during the day, but there is a lot of activity at night with people going in and out.

"You see people sporadically come in and out," Wurtzbacher said. "It's never the same people."

Bail for each defendant was set at $500,000, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 31. They did not post bail and were remanded to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.

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child deathhomicide investigationchild abuse
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