Trial opens in 3-year-old's beating death

Posted: August 08, 2013

The whipping noises could be heard almost every morning through the thin walls, audible beneath the loud music and the child's cries. A distinct sound. Lashes. Something swinging.

And an adult's screams:

"Move your hand!"

"Stop crying!"

"Sit still!"

The screaming and the lashing usually lasted an hour. Sometimes more.

The brutal sounds came from the filthy, one-room apartment in West Philadelphia where prosecutors say 3-year-old Jaquinn Brewton was tortured to death by his godmother, Nadera Batson, and her boyfriend in 2011, according to testimony Tuesday, the opening day of Batson's murder trial.

"Unimaginable" was how Assistant District Attorney Bridget Kirn described the suffering Jaquinn endured.

"He was small. He was frail. But he was a brave boy," she said in an opening argument that brought tears to one juror's eyes. "But he had to be brave. For the last three months of his life, every day was a struggle to live."

Almost daily, Kirn said, Batson, 24, used her hands, brushes, belts, and shoes to beat Jaquinn, who was a little under four feet tall, 32 pounds, speech-delayed, and not potty trained.

When that wasn't enough, Batson poured boiling liquid on Jaquinn's feet, burning off skin, Kirn said.

As punishment for soiling the dirty cushions he slept on, Batson burned his behind with a small cooking torch, Kirn said.

"She took an actual blowtorch and put it on his little butt and she burned the skin off," Kirn said.

Batson never sought medical attention for the burns and open sores and bruises that covered Jaquinn's body, Kirn said.

Only on the morning of June 29, 2011, did she call for help for the child. But it was too late. The night before, she had beaten the boy because he was afraid to go to bed, Kirn said.

EMTs found him on the dirty floor of the apartment in his diaper. He was bleeding internally from a lacerated pancreas. He had no pulse or heartbeat.

Batson said he had fallen down a flight of steps.

Jaquinn died two weeks later.

The boy's mother, Ashley Brewton, gave the child to Batson and her boyfriend, Marcus King, in March 2011 when she and her other children moved into a homeless shelter. Brewton told social workers she did not know where Batson lived and had lost touch with her after a dispute.

King has pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and will testify against Batson.

Jaquinn's abuse was unending, according to a neighbor, Hasan Malik Babb, who testified that he heard the whippings and the wails through the apartment wall.

"This woman beats her kid nonstop every day," Babb, a Navy recruit who testified over closed-circuit TV from a training base, said he texted his landlord 13 days before Jaquinn's fatal beating.

Once, Babb knocked on Batson's door.

"It's been going on a while," he told her. "Can you calm down?"

"I didn't know the music was that loud," he said Batson replied, shutting the door.

She referred to Jaquinn as "this little [expletive]," Babb said.

Crime scene investigator Ronald Siranni showed pictures of the tiny room where Jaquinn spent the final days of his three-year, three-month and eight-day life.

There was a mattress on the floor. And the couch cushions. Ramen noodles were piled in the closet where dirty towels hung. There were no toys, except for a deflated basketball. In the corner, near an empty soda bottle and a pile of adult-size shoes - there were no children's shoes - was a potty training toilet with an empty salad dressing packet in it, as if used as a trash can.

On the top of Batson's opened purse lay a powder-blue cooking blowtorch.


Contact Mike Newall at 215-854-2759 or mnewall@phillynews.com. Or follow on Twitter at @MikeNewall.

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