It was Oct. 21, 2017, and 3-year-old Kejuan Mason wasn’t breathing when police pulled up to a “roach-infested” home in southwest Atlanta. An emergency medical worker from Grady Memorial Hospital was attempting to perform CPR on the boy, to no avail.
The toddler was eventually taken to Atlanta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
How it happened is a tale of three stories.
The child’s guardian, 25-year-old Glenndria Morris, told police she gave the boy – and other children in the home – a cupcake, and he began choking. When he passed out, Morris told police she and another man performed CPR because emergency personnel were taking too long to arrive, reported WXIA.
Later, she told a different story, according to a police report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Now, Morris said the boy did start choking, but they removed the cupcake and he was “breathing and talking later.” He was tired and went to sleep, but when they checked on him, but he wasn’t breathing anymore, and so they called 911.
At the time, detectives pushed for more information. Who was the child’s mother? Morris and her sister “did not want to cooperate” and refused to give that information, police told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Now, officials say neither of the stories Morris told are what actually happened.
Recognizing signs of physical child abuse
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric emergency physician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, child abuse is something that unfortunately pediatricians and emergency room physicians are always on the lookout for, but parents need to know the warning signs of physical abuse too, especially when their children are left in the care of others.
Meta Viers/McClatchy; Cleveland Clinic
Instead, police allege that Glenndria Morris spanked the child while her sister LaShirley beat the boy in the head, torso, legs and arms with a baseball bat. The reason? Because Kejuan sneaked in and ate a cupcake from the kitchen, Fulton County district attorney spokesman Dexter Bond told the AJC.
Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Kejuan died of blunt force trauma to the head and torso, not from choking, the station reported.
The sisters were charged with murder, according to jail records. They were arrested back in October, released on bond after 90 days in jail and then indicted Tuesday.
Police told WXIA there were three adults in the home at the time, along with four other children, including the victim’s brother. The biological parents were not in the home.
The boy’s mother, Geraldine Mason, asked a judge to remove her son from Morris’ guardianship after noticing bruises and scratches, but her request was denied on Oct. 18 – three days before the boy’s death, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I told DFCS. I told the juvenile system, the court – I told everybody,” Mason told CBS 46. “I said, ‘I think y’all need to do something because someone’s beating on my children.’ They did not listen to me. Not one time. They did not listen to me.”
Mason’s children entered DFCS after she was arrested on a reckless conduct charge, according to the AJC. The mother told Fox 5 she had lost custody of the children after she no longer had a place to live.
Mason told Fox 5 Morris was a “friend” who had been a part of her childrens’ lives for a long time.
“I’m still grieving, I’m mad, I’m upset and I’m angry, but I have to have peace for my other grand-babies that need me,” Kejuan’s grandmother Xavier Upshaw told Fox 5. “We want justice, we’re not going to go to sleep on this.”