(WHDH) — A 19-year-old mother and her boyfriend in Pennsylvania are behind bars after her 4-year-old son was beaten to death.
Prosecutors say it happened when the child spilled his cereal, and evidence shows a pattern of abuse at the home.
Investigators described living conditions inside the home on Lukens Avenue in Willow Grove as “deplorable.”
“There were insects and roaches in the house,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.
But inside the home, according to prosecutors, was what Steele called “a violent sustained beating of a 4-year-old that caused his death.”
Prosecutors say that after admitting to spilling his cereal on the morning of Jan. 22, the young boy, Tahjir Smith, died from a beating at the hands of his mother, 19-year-old Lisa Smith, and her 26-year-old boyfriend Keiff King.
“Somebody who would do that is an animal,” said neighbor Charlie Evans. “To do that to your child, or to do that to anybody, but your own child, and to allow someone else to do that to your child, it’s just unthinkable.”
Evans says he has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years and would see the boy playing from time to time.
“After all these months it is still shock and disbelief that this little boy would have to go through that torture and none of us could see or understand it was even happening.”
A forensic pathologist found the 4-year-old died of multiple blunt and thermal injuries and shock after reportedly being forced to hold a push-up position for a long period of time. When he couldn’t, prosecutors say his mother and boyfriend hit him on the head and struck him repeatedly with a sandal.
King also admitted to throwing the boy under a scalding hot shower. Authorities say the autopsy later revealed rib fractures, suggesting it was not the first time he had been beaten.
Smith and King are facing first-degree murder charges. They have been denied bail.
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