Local News

3-Year-Old Dies After Suspected Child Abuse, Authorities Say

Posted July 15, 2005 5:03 a.m. EDT

— Authorities have arrested two people in connection with the death of a 3-year-old boy.

The Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office said Friday that Lawanda Cooper, 19, and her boyfriend, Osborne Bennett, 23, of Mast Lane in Battleboro, were charged with the first-degree murder of Cooper's son, Jaheim Cooper.

According to authorities, an emergency crew transported the boy to Nash General Hospital after Cooper called the sheriff's office saying that her son was not breathing. The child later died at the hospital.

Hospital officials later reported signs of child abuse to authorities, who then arrested Cooper and Bennett, according to a statement from the sheriff's office. They are being held at the Edgecombe County Detention Center without bond.

During an interview with Cooper, investigators said they learned that two weeks ago, Bennett had placed the child in a hot tub of water as a punishment, which left him with severe burns on his body.

Cooper said that the child was taken to a hospital but was sent back home. Authorities said they later found that neither Cooper nor Bennett sought any medical attention for the child.

The state medical examiner said Friday that Jaheim's body shut down because of severe pain that was never treated. They say that if it had been, the boy may have survived.

Jaheim's father, Jamal Wooten, told WRAL that he had not seen his son for several months.

"I'm surprised at her because they said he was burned so bad his skin was coming off," Wooten said.

Officers said that the couple also has a 4-month-old child, who was taken into custody by the county's Department of Social Services. Officials are now trying to find out if there was a history of abuse.