Tot's Starvation Death A Puzzle To His Dad

Posted: May 12, 1986

In Ruffin Hill's view, there's no reason his 4-month-old son, Kevin, should have died.

Hill's girlfriend and Kevin's mother, Anita Chester, took care of the child, Hill said yesterday. She fed their son regularly and took him to a doctor for care, he noted.

But the medical examiner's office and police detectives say the infant was starved to death.

Early Saturday morning, police arrested Chester, 20, in her apartment atop a candy shop on Girard Avenue near 29th Street. They charged her with murder, endangering a child's welfare and recklessly endangering another person. She was held without bail for a hearing Wednesday.

Kevin Chester was pronounced dead Tuesday at St. Joseph's Hospital after being rushed there by a police officer Hill had flagged down on Girard Avenue that morning.

Yesterday, Hill, 20, an unemployed high school graduate, sat in the darkened dining room of his home on Harper Street near 30th, one block from his girlfriend's apartment.

"She was feeding him," Ruffin said, burying his head between the palms of his hands, "She had food in the house and liquid and everything . . . He must have been throwing up."

Hill had thought Kevin was having a problem more than a month ago because he wasn't growing. "I was skeptical," Hill said. "I said, 'Why don't you take him to the hospital?' "

At least a month ago, Chester took their son to a doctor and was given drops for what Hill said he thought was a cold.

While Chester and Kevin were at the doctor's office for an hour that day, Hill said, he watched Chester's two other children, Tyree, 2, and Larry, 1, who was Hill's and Chester's other son.

But Kevin never got healthier. "I loved my son," Hill said, "I was telling her to take him to the doctor."

The medical examiner's report to the police said Kevin weighed less than 6 1/2 pounds when he died, less than his weight at birth. The official cause of death was listed as "neglect, deprivation, emaciation (and) dehydration."

Kevin and his brothers lived with Chester in a room above the candy store run by Chester's mother along a dreary stretch of Girard Avenue where the only bright spots are a few immaculately kept homes.

Hill lives only a block away, on a narrow dead-end street of small rowhouses. There are a few boarded-up houses on the block. But Hill's house, like most of the other houses there, is clean and neatly painted.

Hill said he had used what little money he accumulated from odd jobs to buy diapers and other items for the children.

Early Tuesday, Hill said, he went to Chester's home. There was no hint of a problem with Kevin, who appeared to be sleeping like the other two children, Hill said.

Hill had dozed off when Chester woke him up, frantically crying that their son was dead.

Hill ran out onto Girard Avenue looking for help and flagged down a police car shortly after 6:30 a.m. The officer took the child and couple to St. Joseph's Hospital, but it was already too late for the child.

The other two children were placed in foster homes by authorities after Kevin died, but Hill said he didn't know where.

"I don't even have a picture of Kevin," Hill lamented.

On Saturday, Hill went with Chester's mother to the Police Administration Building to learn his girlfriend's fate. "I still love her - always will," he said, "That's in my heart."

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