The mother of a 6-year-old New York City boy who authorities say was beaten to death by the woman’s boyfriend in 2016 admitted to repeatedly abusing the boy using a belt.
On Tuesday, Geraldine Perkins, 29, took the stand and told a Manhattan Supreme Court jury through tears she used the belt to beat her son in order to protect her hands because she has Lupus, the New York Daily News reports.
The mother previously pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in connection with her son’s death, which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner as a result of “Fatal Child Abuse Syndrome.”
Zymere died after he was allegedly beaten by Smith with a broomstick before being hung over the back of a door by his shirt, according to a criminal complaint obtained by NBC 4.
According to a state-ordered investigation into the handling of Zymere’s death, the city’s Administration of Children and Family Services had been aware of Zymere’s troubled home life from five incidents handled by the agency beginning in 2010.
At the time, in 2010, Perkins and Smith were investigated for allegedly using drugs and in later years often allegedly used corporal punishment to discipline Zymere.
On Tuesday, Perkins testified that she was kicked out of her own grandmother’s home for beating her son and forced to live in homeless shelters.
Perkins said she had a hard time raising her son.
“It was hard. I mean, I’m a single parent. I’m a new parent. I didn’t know how to raise him,” Perkins said while weeping. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
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At one point, to help put food on the table, Perkins became a sex worker. She said she didn’t take away much from the mandatory parenting lessons held at the homeless shelter.
“Maybe I didn’t pick up on the lessons they were giving me,” she recalled on the stand. “I didn’t cherish it. I didn’t hold onto those lessons they taught me.”
Perkins and Smith met outside her old apartment building and within six months were dating. She said Smith took an interest in her son.
“He was wonderful. It was like he was a father figure for my child. He played with him. He cut his hair most of the time. He bought toys for him. He read the bible to him,” she said.
On Monday, Zymere’s former kindergarten teacher, Josefina Gutierrez, testified that she stopped calling the boy’s home to report misbehaviors because she was afraid it would lead to beatings.
Gutierrez recalled one day when Smith suggested she mention his name to Zymere anytime he misbehaved. When she followed his suggestion, a look of terror in Zymere’s eye made her never want to call his home again.
“I was afraid that every time I complained, [his mother] got upset and that was the reason that he came back with bruises,” Gutierrez told the jury.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to http://www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.