(Trinidad News) A Mayaro man has been found guilty of murdering a nine-month-old baby who at the time he believed to be his son.
The baby was beaten to death in July 2008.
His “father”, Kelt Kirk, has been ordered to face the hangman’s noose while the child’s step-mother, Sherry Ann Lalloo, is facing a term of imprisonment that is expected to be passed sometime in September.
The two were jointly charged with murdering baby Raheim Clarke but on July 12, 2022. Justice Gail Gonzales found Kirk guilty of the capital offence while Lalloo was found guilty of manslaughter.
The facts as set out by the State were: Kirk was “reputedly” the boy’s father and the child and his mother, Melissa Clarke, lived with Kirk and Lalloo prior to the incident.
About one month before the killing, Clarke found out Kirk was not the father of the child but did not inform him. At the time, Clarke was also in a relationship with another person identified as Andy Lazare.
He was later proven to be the child’s father by way of a paternity test.
Two weeks after leaving Kirk’s residence with the baby on June 29, 2008, Clarke returned the child to Kirk’s home and asked him to care for the baby since she “had to go out”.
Clarke was to retrieve Raheim the following day but when she arrived to collect him, she was unable to do so because Kirk informed her it was too late and that she should return for him the following day. When she did so, Kirk asked if Raheim could spend another night.
The next morning however, Kirk took the child to the Mayaro District Hospital. The baby was found to be unresponsive with no pulse, no heartbeat and his pupils were fixed and dilated.
Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and Dr Chandolu pronounced him dead.
The doctor also observed bruises over his face and nail marks around his neck, there was also a cut under his upper lip. Police were then contacted.
The officers interviewed Kirk that same day and he indicated he was the child’s father.
That same morning, the officers accompanied Kirk to his home at Mafeking Village, Mayaro.
At the home, Kirk pointed out an area where he alleged that Raheim had fallen off a bed. Kirk informed the officers that Raheim was ill the night before and was continually defecating on himself.
The morning he died, Kirk was outside when he heard Raheim fall off the bed. He picked him up and he appeared to be unharmed.
As he was returning outside, Raheim began grasping for breath and ceased breathing. He immediately dressed himself and took Raheim to the hospital.
He admitted hitting Raheim the night before but said that they were small slaps. He also admitted that he was responsible for the scratches on Raheim’s neck.
He did not say how or when he inflicted those injuries but Dr Chandolu opined that they were old injuries, given they had already healed and they were deep because of the presence of scar tissue.
Lalloo was also interviewed by the officers that day and she too claimed the baby had fallen from the bed.
But both stories soon changed with each of them blaming the other for the child’s death.
Kirk said it was Lalloo who inflicted the blows that killed the child in and out of his presence but he had decided not to inform the officers of this at first because he wanted to protect her.
He claimed he went out on the Tuesday afternoon and when he returned later in the evening, he observed marks on Raheim’s skin. He asked Lalloo what she had hit Raheim with and she said her hand and the dabla (wooden cooking implement).
In her post-mortem examination, forensic pathologist Dr Estlyn McDonald-Burris found there was extensive bruising at the entire undersurface of the scalp. There was diastasis of the skull sutures, sagittal and coronal.
The brain was swollen more so, on the right side. The cause of death was head injury and haemorrhage due to blunt force trauma to the head.
In her ruling, Justice Gonzales said based on the totality of the circumstantial evidence, she believed Kirk was the one who inflicted the blows that cost the child his life.
“…Having found as a fact that Kirk had a history of abusing Raheim, he had struck Raheim on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. He had inflicted the fatal blow (and) I was also sure that Kirk had inflicted the blow with intention to do serious harm.”
“In this case Lalloo did two things that might suggest that there was a tacit agreement. She rubbed down Raheim in attempt to reduce the bruises so that Melissa would not see it the next day. Secondly, she failed to intervene.