Harlem mother and boyfriend arraigned in death of 6-year-old boy

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- A mother and her boyfriend were arraigned in connection with the death of a 6-year-old boy who was found unconscious in his Harlem home Monday afternoon.

42-year-old Rysheim Smith has 18 prior arrests. He requested a lawyer and did not cooperate with police. He is suspected of hitting the boy with a broom stick Monday.

26-year-old Geraldine Perkins claims she was not home at the time of Monday's assault. But she also made statements indicating she took no steps to stop her boyfriend's assaults of her son, authorities say.

Both are charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Bail for each was set at $50,000 cash/bond.

Authorities responded to the scene on West 135th Street just before 2:30 p.m., where they learned the mother had already rushed Zymere Perkins to St. Luke's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Although the autopsy is still pending further testing, detectives were told it appears the child was the victim of ongoing abuse.

His injuries are consistent with being struck with an object, like a broomstick. The bruises are old and new, indicating it had been over a period of time, according to investigators.

In the complaint released by the District Attorney's office, it says that the mother admitted to hitting her son on numerous occasions and used a broomstick once.

The broom stick was recovered in the building's trash compactor.

The boy's T-shirt was also recovered in the trash. It had feces on it. The boy may have been defecating in an ice bucket in the apartment, which is what detectives suspect sparked Monday's beating.

The apartment did not have working electricity when police responded. It was also found to have rotting food in the refrigerator and was infested with cockroaches and other insects.

The DA also found that after the boy's beating, he was hanging by his shirt from the back of the bathroom door. Zymere was unconscious, and that's when the mother placed him on the bed and went to read bible and rest.

When she attempted to wake him up, Perkins says that he wouldn't wake up so she got him dressed and took him downto the street, hailed a taxi and took him to the hospital. He was already dead.

City officials are reviewing the records of contact that multiple city agencies had with the boy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the death should have been prevented.

"I find it incredibly troubling and I find it unacceptable that this child was lost. Period," the mayor said.

The city's Administration for Children's Services had some prior interaction with Perkins, investigating past allegations of child abuse. The resolution of those prior allegations is unclear.

The city is also looking into the child's schooling, and whether anyone in the Education Department raised concerns. The student may not have attended classes for a period of time.

The case is strikingly similar to the death of Nixmary Brown, a landmark abuse case that led to major child welfare reforms.

Yet Zymere died 10 years later, in spite of those reforms, and the mayor says he's determined to find out why.

"There were warning signs, they were clearly looked at by a variety of agencies," said de Blasio. "How that didn't lead to a different outcome is what I don't understand."

A memorial outside the building has many moving messages, including one from a police officer:

The city's Department of Investigation is now stepping into the case.
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