The mother surrendered to the LAPD on torture charges after a public appeal was issued to find her. Her live-in girlfriend was arrested a day later.
By Ari B. Bloomekatz and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
June 15, 2008
The mother of a 5-year-old-boy and her live-in girlfriend have been arrested in connection with what authorities describe as "unbearable physical and psychological abuse" of the child, police said Saturday.
The mother, Starkeisha Brown, 24, turned herself in to the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street Division station late Friday night after officers made a public plea for help in finding the women and released their pictures. Brown was being held without bail on charges of torture.
The other woman, Krystal Matthews, 21, was arrested Saturday by detectives when she showed up for her appointment at the county Department of Children and Family Services. She was being held on $100,000 bail on charges of willful harm or injury to a child.
Police said both women have a history of violence.
The boy, who was in guarded condition at a local hospital, was rescued Monday by a stranger who found him abandoned and called authorities.
On that same day, the two women had an appointment with the Department of Children and Family Services and had brought the healthy child of a mutual friend and tried to pass him off as Brown's son.
Police said the women routinely beat the boy, forced him to put his hands on a hot stove, burned his body and genitals with cigarettes and often would not let him eat or drink.
At a news conference Friday, LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said that because of the burns from the stove, the boy no longer can open his hands.
Lt. Vincent Neglia of the LAPD's Abused Child Unit said in a statement Saturday that the abuse was "akin to a level of torture we hope our military personnel would never encounter."
Residents in the South Los Angeles neighborhood where the boy lived said Saturday that they were shocked to hear of the child's treatment and disgusted by the abuse allegations against the mother and girlfriend.
"I never knew a parent could do something like this. It was just a shock," said Mary Williams, 68, who lives in an apartment complex adjacent to where neighbors said Brown and Matthews live in the 11000 block of Figueroa Street.
Williams' 9-year-old grandson saw the boy often, and occasionally the two played together.
"How could you just do this and run off and leave him?" she said. "I hurt for that baby."
Another neighbor said, "If I [had known] anything, they would've been caught a long time ago."
The predominantly African American and Latino neighborhood is northwest of the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways. The street scape is dominated by modest apartment complexes and single-story homes, auto body and machine shops, liquor stores and small motels. Across the street from the women's home is Holy Rock Baptist Church and an Ultra Oil gas station.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in the neighborhood, in the 90061 ZIP Code, is nearly triple the national average, and about 10% of the population are homeowners.
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