A Manhattan, New York jury convicted a man Wednesday of second-degree murder in the beating death of his girlfriend’s 6-year-old son, Zymere Perkins.
49-year-old Rysheim Smith, beat Zymere with a broomstick. He put Zymere under a cold shower and hung him from a hook after the child had defecated in the filthy living room of the family’s Harlem apartment on September 26, 2016, prosecutors said.
The jury of seven men and five women also convicted Rysheim of manslaughter.
Rysheim looked down as the verdict was read. He then shook his head in seeming disbelief as his lawyer, Arnold Levine of The Legal Aid Society, patted him on the back to console him.
The verdict brought a sad end to a tragic saga that resulted in the death of a child, the failure of a city agency and the resignation of a top city commissioner.
Zymere’s death brought to light the breakdown of the city’s child welfare system. Before Zymere died, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services investigated the boy’s mom five times but cleared her of any wrongdoing.
The jury reached its decision during its second day of deliberations. Earlier in the day, jurors had asked to take another look at autopsy photos, in particular those of the boy’s fractured ribs.
A medical expert had told jurors that little Zymere suffered at least 30 rib fractures. The boy’s injuries were consistent with “significant blows to the chest” and “forceful squeezing,” the doctor testified.
Prosecutors said Zymere was beaten again. However, this time to death, after Rysheim discovered that the boy had defecated in the living room and had tried to hide it. Zymere’s mom, Geraldine Perkins, testified that the hulking Rysheim cursed the child and poked him in the stomach with the sharp end of the broken broomstick.
The mother said Zymere probably didn’t use the bathroom because the apartment had no electricity, and he was afraid to use the bathroom in the dark.
The beating intensified when Rysheim snatched a screaming Zymere from the floor and brought him into the bathroom, where he waterboarded him before pulling down the shower rod and unleashing another beating, she said.
Then Rysheim went out and got breakfast.
Prosecutors said Perkins, 29, just stood by during the abuse. But Rysheim’s attorneys tried to convince jurors that she was solely responsible for the boy’s death.
Assistant DA Kerry O’Connell acknowledged during closing arguments Monday that Geraldine, was “equally responsible” for her son’s “depraved” slaying.
Geraldine confessed that she did nothing while her son endured the heartless beating that killed him. She even testified at the trial that she cleaned her child’s limp and unresponsive body, read the Bible, did her makeup and put on a wig before carrying the battered little boy to the hospital.
The mother agreed to testify against Rysheim in a deal in which she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to a prison sentence of two to six years.
“The death of Zymere Perkins was an unthinkable tragedy that sent shockwaves through the city and inspired a reckoning with how our social services system works to protect New York’s most vulnerable,” Manhattan DA Vance said in a statement.
“As proven at trial, Zymere was an innocent and helpless 6-year-old boy who suffered unconscionable, ongoing violence at the hands of Rysheim Smith. Now, a Manhattan jury has rightly held the defendant accountable for this horrific murder.”
Mayor de Blasio and his Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion came under fire for the agency’s failure to prevent the boy’s death.
Four caseworkers were suspended without pay for 30 days, but have since returned to work in lower-level jobs in which they’re barred from dealing directly with families under ACS supervision. Carrion resigned weeks later.
Rysheim Smith faces life in prison when he is sentenced March 27, 2020.