Monday, November 8, 2010

Judge dismisses abuse charge against mother in beating death of 2-year-old

Published: Thursday, November 04, 2010, 10:42 PM ??? Updated: Thursday, November 04, 2010, 10:44 PM

A Jefferson County judge dismissed a child abuse charge against a mother today in the beating death of her 2-year-old son, but allowed a related capital murder case to proceed against her boyfriend.

District Judge Sheldon Watkins ruled that evidence concerning the Sept. 16 fatal beating of Antauan Palmore did not support a charge of felony child abuse against the mother, Erin Wills, 25.

Antauan died on Sept. 20.

Wills told Birmingham police that she left her boyfriend, Demarcus Williams, in charge of Antauan and siblings ages 4 and 5 while she attended a church tent revival, testified John Tanks, a Birmingham police detective, during a preliminary hearing today.

When she returned, she saw Williams squeezing the child's torso and hitting him, Wills told police.

Watkins found probable cause to support the charge of capital murder of a child against Williams, 21, and bound over the case to a grand jury. He declined to set bond for Williams, who is being held at the Jefferson County Jail.

"This is a case where a woman made a bad choice of boyfriends and unfortunately it resulted in the death of her child," Wills' lawyer, Eric Guster, said after the hearing. "It was a tragedy. There is almost an epidemic here of children being abused by someone who is not a blood relative."

Antauan had a swollen head and face and multiple bruises on his body when he was taken by ambulance from his home in the 2900 block of S.J. Bennett Drive in southwest Birmingham to Children's Hospital, Tanks testified. Most of the bruises were fresh, although some on the child's bottom were healing.

At the hospital, Wills initially claimed Williams told her Antauan was injured falling off a couch, Tanks testified. Williams, who did not live at Wills' southwest Birmingham apartment, left before she called 911.

After Tanks confirmed that Antauan's injuries could not have come from a fall, Wills told him that she witnessed Williams physically abusing the child. She said Williams told her lie to police with the story about the fall, Tanks testified.

Williams also claimed Antauan was hurt in a fall when he made a statement at police headquarters the next day, Tanks testified. Williams also said he spanked the child.

Neither sibling saw what happened to Antauan, Tanks testified.

Williams' lawyer, Scott Brower, asked Watkins to dismiss the capital case, saying there was no evidence to back the mother's statement blaming Williams.

"It is a self-serving statement and not enough for the case to proceed," Brower told Watkins.

The prosecutor, Tom Moore, contended Wills committed child abuse by waiting more than an hour before seeking medical help for her severely injured child.

Guster argued that it may have taken that long for the bruises to show up on Antauan, who had a medium-dark complexion.

"When her child started developing bruises, that's when she realized how serious it was," Guster said after the hearing.

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