A 5-year-old Philadelphia boy is dead after his mother and her boyfriend allegedly tortured him to death, WPVI-TV reports.
Philly police discovered little Dashawn Harris‘ body in his mother’s home around 1 a.m. on Saturday. His boy reportedly showed signs of abuse: cigarette burns were found on his chest and the rest of his body was bruised. The boy was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The child’s mother, Lashay Patterson, 23, and her boyfriend, Christian Patrick, 25, were arrested and charged with murder after several hours of questioning by the police. Sources told WPVI-TV that Patrick became angry with Dashawn while trying to teach him to read and write. He allegedly punished the boy by beating him with a belt and burning him with a hairdryer. The boy was home-schooled, according to Philly.com.
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Patterson also has a 3-year-old son. He has been placed in the custody of his father and paternal grandparents. Family members believe he was being abused as well. According to Philly.com, there is a possibility that Dashawn was abused months before his death:
Tracy Merriweather, the boys’ paternal aunt and Patterson’s next-door neighbor in the 600 block of North 13th Street near Ridge Avenue, said she had seen sores and bruises on her nephews’ arms over the summer. After she inquired about the marks, Merriweather said in an interview Sunday, Patterson stopped letting her see the boys.
Patterson also stopped the father’s regular visits, Merriweather said. “She started saying, ‘They sick. They got homework. They can’t come.’ It was always something,” she said.
The boys were rarely seen outside, even as other boys ran around the lawns of the West Poplar Apartments, throwing footballs and skating on the sidewalk. A neighbor said of Patterson, “I forgot she had sons, because I never saw her with kids.”
But Patterson still allowed Merriweather’s two daughters to visit their cousins.
On Wednesday, Merriweather said, her 10-year-old daughter came home and told her they were playing in Patterson’s living room when “the mom just grabbed Dashawn and started beating on him.” Merriweather said she and her mother tried to talk to Patterson on Friday but were turned away.
Patterson’s family says Dashawn’s death was an accident. “He had gotten a spanking. And then his condition got worse, and she called the ambulance,” Patterson’s mother, Shelby Frazier, said.
Ladonna Owens-Frazier, Patterson’s older sister, said, “I know deep down that Lashay and Christian didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Patterson and Patrick initially told police Dashawn had fallen off his bike. But they later said they had been teaching the boy school lessons at home, and they admitted to striking the child as punishment, Riehl said.
Local news organizations reached out to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services to ask if the agency met with the family before Dashawn’s death. They declined to comment citing confidentiality.