Three women pleaded not guilty Wednesday at the Compton County courthouse to child abuse and other charges involving a 5-year-old boy who was burned, starved and beaten.
A Superior Court commissioner listened impassively to the not guilty pleas from the boy’s mother, 24-year-old Starkeisha Brown, her live-in girlfriend Krystal Matthews, 21, and LaTanya Jones, 26, identified by authorities as the baby sitter.
The badly abused boy was hospitalized June 9 after being found ill and in the care of a homeless stranger. Authorities allege that Brown’s son was the victim of extreme abuse for more than a year.
As reported in Our Weekly last week, the two women denied Brown’s son food and water, beat him repeatedly, inflicted multiple cigarette burns to his body including his genital area, burned him on the stove and left him to sit in his own urine. They also allowed an exposed nerve in his tooth to go untreated.
On June 9, the boy was left in the care of a homeless stranger outside of a Los Angeles County child services office in Compton as Brown and Matthews appeared at an appointment with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). During the appointment, Brown and Matthews brought a healthy child of a mutual friend and tried to pass off that child as Brown’s son.
At the same time of the DCFS appointment, the homeless stranger notified authorities about being left in charge of the boy.
It is reported that friends and family suspected that Brown beat the boy–and a few even said they witnessed the beatings, they told news sources. They confronted Brown on at least one occasion, but no one called authorities.
Matthews was arrested by detectives and Brown turned herself in to LAPD’s 77th Division last Friday after the child abuse case was aired on the news.
In the South Central neighborhood where the women lived, it was reported that the owner of an apartment inhabited by Brown, Matthews and the child, called the police four or five times when she heard the boy crying in the upstairs apartment, Francisco Lugo, the owner’s son, told The Associated Press.
The three women are charged with child abuse, dissuading a witness, corporal injury to a child and conspiracy. Brown and Matthews are also charged with torture and face 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Supervisor Gloria Molina said the boy’s abuse likely could have been detected if welfare, probation and child services had shared information on the mother, a former gang member who had served two prison terms.
DCFS investigated a report of abuse on the boy in 2005, but the report was deemed “inconclusive.”
The boy’s plight has elicited widespread outrage and has caused the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to order an investigation into why officials were not able to do more for the child.