Police: Boy beaten to death after spilling cereal

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Police: Willow Grove boy killed after spilling cereal: Wendy Saltzman reports on Action News at 11 p.m., January 23, 2018 (WPVI)

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania said a boy was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend after spilling cereal inside their home on Monday night.

Police charged the boy's mother, Lisa Smith, 19, and her boyfriend, Keiff King, 26, with aggravated assault, attempted murder and other related charges.

Lisa Smith and Keiff King

Investigators said the pair repeatedly hit 4-year-old Tahjir Smith about the head and torso with their hands and a shoe after he spilled the cereal in his home.

According to court documents, Tahjir became unresponsive in the home and went in and out of consciousness. Police said that's when his mother called police and then began to walk down the street with the child.

Officials said around 6:10 p.m., they responded to a report of a respiratory emergency. According to an affidavit, Smith, who is currently pregnant, was found wandering around outside her house with the 4-year-old lying nearby. Paramedics arrived to find the boy limp and unresponsive. The boy was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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Sources: Boy, 4, dies in Montgomery Co. home: Chad Pradelli reports on Action News at 4 p.m., January 23, 2018

The Montgomery County Coroner's Office said an autopsy conducted Tuesday revealed that in addition to fresh injuries on the boy's body, "(old rib) injuries inflicted from a sustained event" were also discovered. The district attorney's office is awaiting further test results before determining an official cause of death.

According to Smith's confession, she and King were disciplining the boy for spilling his cereal and made him get into a push-up position. She said they then "laid the boy on the bed with his pants and underwear removed, grabbed a blue Levi's sandal and repeatedly struck him." She said King "punched Tahjir in the back of the head," before putting him in a scalding shower and burning him.

"This senseless death of a 4-year-old boy at the very hands of the adults who are supposed to care for him and keep him safe is a horrible tragedy," said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele. "This is the face of domestic violence: a preschooler was beaten until he stopped breathing because he spilled his cereal."

Neighbors were shocked and saddened to learn of what had happened.

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Mom, boyfriend charged with beating boy, 4, to death for spilling cereal: Chad Pradelli reports on Action News at 6 p.m., January 23, 2018

"I am heartbroken and to know that we live here and we couldn't do anything to protect the child," said neighbor Andrea Wurtzbacher. "Really makes me sick."

Several said they don't really know much about the people who live inside of the home.

"They usually keep to themselves," said neighbor Sam Evans. "They've never really talked to anybody."

Neighbors also said the house is quiet during the day, but there is a lot of activity at night, with people going in and out.
"You see people sporadically come in and out. It's never the same people," said Wurtzbacher.

Both Smith and King were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge John Kessler who set bail for each defendant at $500,000. They did not post bail and were remanded to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.

A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31.
Related Topics:
child deathhomicide investigationu.s. & worldPennsylvania
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