SAN FRANCISCO – She was a familiar sight at Antioch Middle School-shy 15-year-old Jazzmin Davis would walk the hallways bearing bruises, scars and even a broken arm. But when questioned, Davis never acknowledged that she was being beaten and slowly starved by her aunt and foster caregiver, 37-year-old Shameeka Davis.
The routine abuse, which lasted for over a year, finally ended with the death of Jazzmin at the hands of her aunt.
“What caused her death was a multitude of blows over a multitude of days in the context of not being properly fed and clothed, which weakened her,” Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett said outside a Martinez courtroom where Davis made her initial court appearance Friday. “All contributed to her death,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
When interviewed by the Chronicle, the classmates recall that Davis always appeard to have been hit or beaten. “Every day she came to school, she had a new bruise,” said Tanaiia Saunders, 15, now a sophomore at Antioch High School who attended Antioch Middle School with Jazzmin.
“Her skin had a heck’a scars,” Kaitlyn Bagley, a schoolmate, told the Chronicle. One time, her former classmates reported that she showed up with a broken arm.
Jazzmin hinted at the abuse she suffered but would not admit it, her former classmates said.
“She would never admit she was getting beaten,” Kaitlyn said. “She would hint and say things like, ‘What are you supposed to do when you get abused?’”
Tanaiia said she told Jazzmin that someone being abused should report it to the school office or run away. “She said her family life was not right,” Tanaiia told news sources. “It’s like she wanted help.” But when asked about her injuries, Jazzmin always had an excuse, like the day she came to school with a black eye. She said she got jumped,” Tanaiia recalls.
The two girls also said that Jazzmin also was excessively thin and underfed and that she used to ask her friends for food during lunch.
Authorities say Jazzmin and her twin brother–whose name has not been released– lately had been restricted like prisoners to an upstairs room in their home at 3750 Killdeer Drive in Antioch.
Lt. Leonard Orman of the Antioch Police told the Contra Costa Times that the brother and Jazzmin were placed with their aunt when they were infants after being born in San Francisco. Trent Rhorer, executive director of the city’s Human Services Agency, declined to discuss Jazzmin’s twin brother because of state confidentiality requirements, but he did say that Jazzmin was placed with her aunt because a court found her “biological parents were unfit to care for the child.”
Jazzmin was found dead in her home on Killdeer Drive about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept.2. Her 15-year-old twin brother and Shemeeka Davis’ 7-year-old daughter are also believed to have been abused over a long period, Orman said.
Orman, who reported that Jazzmin’s death appears to have resulted from the “most extreme” case of child neglect he’s seen in nearly a quarter-century in law enforcement, canvassed the two-story house and said he was taken aback by the stark contrast in living conditions between the victim and her brother, and Davis’ three biological children.
Whereas Davis’ children — ages 18, 17 and 7 — lived in bedrooms with typical furnishings for a suburban upbringing, the room where the victim and her brother stayed was in utter disrepair. “It was the type of thing you’d see in a prisoner of war camp,” Orman commented.
He added that while Davis’ children were in good health, Jasmine Davis and her brother showed physical signs of routine beatings.
“Both kids had head-to-toe injuries,” he told news sources.
Jasmine Davis had been beaten the morning of her death, which was reported hours after the fact when the suspect’s mother came to the house, surveyed what had happened, and decided to call authorities, Orman said.
An autopsy revealed Jazzmin had been burned repeatedly with hot irons and whipped with plastic belts, canvas belts and electrical cords, police said. She died in the home from what Deputy District Attorney Jewett called a “complex cause of death.”
San Francisco case worker records indicate that although regular visits to the home occurred every six months, none indicated signs of abuse in at least the last three years, according to Rhorer of the city’s Human Services Agency.
“What’s shown in the notes about Jazzmin is that she’s doing OK. There certainly is no evidence or indication of trouble in the home,” Rhorer told news sources.
Initially, there were monthly visits to the Davis home, Rhorer said. But those were scaled back to every six months after the setting was deemed to be stable, he said.
“It’s really, really troubling when you’re an agency whose mandate is to protect kids and shield them from neglect. When we’re doing all in our power to do that and yet this still occurs, it’s really upsetting.”
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who has been in the forefront of leading a bipartisan effort to enact a host of new laws to help improve the state’s foster care system, issued the following statement on Jazzmin’s death: “It is always a tragedy when a child dies and in the case of Jazzmin Davis, it is also unfortunate that she apparently suffered for a long time while in the care of her aunt. This case, along with the countless others, reiterates the need for us to examine the way in which we are tracking youth in our Foster Care System including those who are in relative care. We cannot continue to polarize these distressing issues only when a child dies. It is our responsibility to make sure our children are safe at all times. We need to develop solutions that will help us reform the system with the main goal of protecting foster youth. These are our children and they cannot afford to have us continue to take a band aid approach when addressing the gaps in the Foster Care System. We have to invest in overall reform if we are really committed to better outcomes for our foster youth.”
Davis, 37, is charged with murder, torture and child abuse in the death of her niece, whose foster care was overseen by officials in San Francisco. She also faces torture and child abuse charges for allegedly abusing Jazzmin’s twin brother. If convicted, Davis faces up to three life sentences. A judge ordered Davis held on $1.5 million bail.
Davis was paid $6,552 annually per foster child from the San Francisco Human Services Agency, as well as getting a $1,747 monthly housing supplement from Contra Costa County, Antioch police Lt. Leonard Orman said.