Nymeen Cheatham and Lemar Martin, and who else is to blame for 3 year-old Kyle Smith’s continued torture and ultimate death?

New stories tell of how 3 year-old Kyle was sodomized, beaten, doused with cold water, and forced to do push ups or march in place during punishments. News stories tell of the physical findings on his body at the time he was found dead inside a Brooklyn apartment. He had a torn tongue, multiple bruises on his torso, legs and genital areas. Kyle even had lacerations in his anus. Neighbors spoke to news reporters and said they heard and saw disturbing spectacles of abuse inflicted on this child. Neighbors told reporters they saw some of the abuse, but didn’t report it to authorities. His drug addicted- mother left him with Cheatham and Martin. The role of Kyle’s father is unclear. The news story did not elaborate on the details as to why Kyle did not live with his father.    

According to news stories, Ms. Cheatham had a history of abuse towards children in another state. Social workers from the Administration for Children’s Services and the New York City Police Department state they had been out to the apartment where Kyle lived. But according to a statement by Sheila Stainback, no one reported the abuse Kyle was enduring. It is unclear why the Administration for Children’s Services did not know about Cheatham’s past history with another child protection agency if there was an investigation into Cheatham’s background during legal custody proceedings.  

This child’s torture and ordeal was not only the result of mental, physical, and medical neglect and sexual abuse, as heinous as these features are in the short life of this young boy. Moral neglect is the fiber that intertwines all the crimes committed by Cheatham and Martin against Kyle Smith. The moral neglect of the neighbors unnamed and named, like Hason Parker. Parker admits to witnessing some abuse by Cheatham against Kyle Smith. Parker admits to seeing the maltreatment inflicted on this little boy and then admits to not reporting it. Does this make Parker guilty at least, in part, of his role in Kyle’s death? But Parker is not alone because other neighbors didn’t report the abuse of Kyle, as well. And what did Kyle’s father, Darien Smith, know about Kyle’s condition?   

The crimes committed, by Cheatham and Martin, against Kyle and society in this case are glaring. But what about the moral crime committed by the witnesses, the neighbors in this case, are they not guilty of a crime? The moral crime of withholding information from authorities after witnessing child endangerment; this child was in immediate risk of serious harm and at risk for death at the hands of his abusers. Hason Parker, and other neighbors, admitted seeing clear evidence that Kyle was being abused, yet allegedly and by their own admission to news reporters, did not notify police or ACS of the crimes committed against Kyle Smith. Moral neglect by the neighbors also contributed to the circumstances that ultimately lead to Kyle Smith’s death. This is an act of moral neglect, a conscious act of omission and a conscious decision to not report a serious crime against a child. This moral neglect is a crime against society.  

There is no single factor has been identified as the cause of child abuse. In general, there is an interaction of multiple risk factors in the environment that place children at risk to be victims of abuse. Researchers have identified abusive parents or caregivers as having risk factors such as substance abuse, low self-esteem, mental or physical disability, depression, history of abuse as a child, poor coping skills, poor impulse control, history of violent behavior or history of being raised in a group setting with no positive parental role.

All children are potential victims of child abuse, but some factors increase the risk for a child to be abused. What would researchers identify in non-reporters, in neighbors, that have witnessed child abuse and not reported it to authorities to save the child’s life?          

Christopher Keane
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California Child Abuse and Child Injury Lawyer
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