Local News

Father of slain Fayetteville child didn't suspect abuse

Posted April 5, 2011 4:22 p.m. EDT
Updated April 5, 2011 7:04 p.m. EDT

— The father of a 1-year-old Fayetteville child who died after being severely beaten in July 2010 said he never suspected his sons were abused by their mother, who now faces murder charges in the boy's death.

Malissa Yates, 24, of 6089 Lunar Drive, was charged Monday afternoon with first-degree murder and felony child abuse.

She lived with her boyfriend and two sons – William, 1, and James, 4. She called 911 on July 31 to report that William wasn't breathing. 

When Cumberland County sheriff's deputies arrived at the apartment, there were "no obvious signs of trauma at all," a sheriff's office spokeswoman said. 

"Nobody knew why he had passed away, what was the cause of death," said James McIntyre, the father of both boys. "It was frustrating. I mean, not knowing what's going on, what happened."

A few months after William's death, Yates was arrested for misdemeanor child abuse against James. According to court documents, Yates denied hitting the child with anything other than her hand, but when she was shown photos of marks on his skin, she admitted to striking the boy with a belt three times.

"Malissa Yates stated that she got her belt and swung it at the victim while he ran around the room wildly. (She) advised that she had struck the victim three times with the belt without his shirt on," court documents state.

Investigators said that alleged abuse happened before William's death, and that they noticed some bruising on James when they responded to the apartment in July.

"I don't know why anybody would want to hurt a baby like that," McIntyre said. 

When investigators received the final autopsy report from the State Medical Examiner's Office in February, they began investigating the case as a homicide. The autopsy states that William died of blunt force trauma to the head, chest and abdomen.

According to the medical examiner, William suffered brain hemorrhaging, a fractured clavicle and rib and lacerations to his liver and pancreas as a result of the beating. The injuries indicated that the child had been abused on at least two occasions before his death, the autopsy states.

James now lives with McIntyre.

The Department of Social Services declined to comment on any custody matters involving James. It wasn't clear when he was removed from the home.

Yates made her first court appearance Tuesday and is being held without bond in the Cumberland County Detention Center.