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[UPDATE] LaRhonda McCall Charged with Locking Son in Closet, Torturing Him for 4 Years

Friday, October 16, 2009 at 9:40 am
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LaRhonda Marie McCall poured alcohol on her son's stomach and set it on fire
UPDATE: LaRhonda McCall's torture of her 14-year-old son was more horrific than originally reported. See update after the jump...

He showed up scarred and starving at an Oklahoma City National Guard post with a horrific tale: His mother had locked him in a closet for four years, periodically beating and torturing him.

He showed up wearing but over-sized pants with only a belt holding them up. There were scars covering most of his body. He said his mother, LaRhonda Marie McCall, and her boyfriend, Steve Vern Hamilton, had poured alcohol on his stomach and set it on fire, beat him with extension cords and choked him. The scars extended nearly head to foot...

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Steve Vern Hamilton also faces 20 counts of abuse and neglect
The boy said his trouble began four years ago when the family moved from New Jersey. He hadn't attended school since then, and spent most of his time locked in a closet. But he managed to escape to the National Guard post when he pushed open a closet door blocked by a bed.

What's odd about the case is that there were six other children in the house, none of which appeared to be abused. It's unknown why McCall and Hamilton specifically picked the 14-year-old for their unique brand of sadism. But they'll now have plenty of time to reflect on their choices. Both have been charged with 20 counts of child abuse and neglect.

UPDATE I: The boy was locked in a closet for hours and days at a time.

After LaRhonda McCall was evicted for unpaid rent in August from the Hillcrest Apartments in Oklahoma City, building manager surveyed the place. In the closet where the boy lived, she found a hole in the wall filled with human waste, presumably where the child went to the bathroom.

She told the Associated Press that she didn't know seven kids were living in the place, and never knew of the boy in the closet since the door was always closed whenever she visited. "I just wish I would have known about it," she said. "I would have done something."

UPDATE II: We now know that McCall and Hamilton beat and tortured the boy. We just don't know why.

Both adults have confessed to police that they locked the 14-year-old in a closet and beat him over a four-year period. The child has told police that he was beaten with a broomstick, electrical cord and belt. He was also tied up with twine and locked in a closet for days on end without food. When he showed up at the National Guard post, he said he hadn't eaten in a week.

37-year-old LaRhonda McCall has confirmed much of the boy's story in an affidavit. She admits to beating her son numerous times on his chest, back and legs, in addition to choking him.

38-year-old Steve Hamilton, an Oklahoma City cab driver, also confessed to pummeling the boy multiple times with a belt, wire cable and a tire jack.

The Oklahoman newspaper printed a portion of Hamilton's affidavit, where the boy is identified by the initials B.M.:

"Steve stated between June 2007 and August ... 2009 he has probably left marks on the victim's back, arms or legs about 20 times ... Steve witnessed LaRhonda also beat the victim in this way as well," the police officer reported in court papers.

"Steve stated he also knew that LaRhonda would punish B.M. by putting him in a closet on several different occasions. Steve advised he saw B.M. locked in the closet on at least 27 different occasions. Steve advised LaRhonda would at least keep him in a locked closet sometimes all day or more. Steve also was aware that LaRhonda would tie the victim's hands up to punish him with a belt. ...

"Steve never wanted to contact the police because he was afraid his best friend LaRhonda would get into trouble."

Unfortunately, we still don't know why they did it. Or why they seemingly picked on just one child while not harming McCall's other six children.

UPDATE III: LaRhonda McCall was convicted of killing another child 13 years ago.

That's the latest word out of New York City, where she was convicted in 1996 of second-degree manslaughter in the death of her two-year-old. Manslaughter usually implies death caused by negligence or error, rather than any purposeful viciousness. And that seems to be how a court saw it, since she was given an unknown amount of jail time and probation.

Early reports don't indicated what actually transpired.

UPDATE IV: Though light sentences are the exception rather than the rule these days, LaRhonda McCall was one of those exceptions in 1996, when she received just six months for starving her two-year-old to death.

You know there's a judge out there just waiting to take a beating for this: In 1995, McCall -- then going by the name LaRhonda Pressley -- showed up at a Bronx hospital to report that her 2-year-old daughter Ciara was having trouble breathing. The girl weighed just 14 pounds and could neither walk or crawl. She died at Lincoln Hospital a week later from malnourishment.

But a year later, McCall was only convicted of second-degree manslaughter, and given six months in the slam and probation. How do you get just six months for starving a toddler to death?

At the time, she would have either been pregnant or have already given birth to the 14-year-old boy she now admits to torturing in Oklahoma City.

We still don't have all the details in the case, but just from what we have so far, it looks like heads are going to roll in the Bronx, as well they should.

UPDATE V: 18-year-old Jaleasa McCall knew her mom beat, whipped and choked her brother, but was too afraid to call police.

For those of us who've never been in this situation, it's impossible fathom just standing by while this brand of sadism occurred. But who knows the mind of a child raised in this environment.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jaleasa confirmed that her brother was tortured and locked in a closet for days on end. He was pale and stunk from lack of bathing or a bathroom to use. The boy apparently was targeted for abuse because LaRhonda and Hamilton believed he was stealing from them.

Jaleasa says she would sneak him food and offer comfort, but she was too afraid of her mom -- and what she'd do to the other five kids -- to ever call police. "When my mom wasn't home or when she would go to work, I would try to get him out so he could get washed up and give him some food until it was time to get him put back in there," she says. But the boy couldn't even chew his food because mom would check his teeth when she got home to see if he'd eaten.

Jaleasa was only four years old when her mom was convicted of starving another daughter to death. She and her brother went to live with relatives in New Jersey, then joined their mother again when she moved to Oklahoma City.

Equally surprising is that the boy never tried to escape until now. It seems he had regular opportunities when his mom was at work and Hamilton was off driving a cab. But he only decided to flee after Jaleasa and he had a fight over cleaning the house.

Thankfully most of us will never know what it's like to live in such a perverse environment. Nor how twisted a child's mind can become when that's all he knows. But when you've been beaten with a tire jack, as Hamilton has confessed to doing, one would think that even the most abused kid would know it's time to flee.

UPDATE VI: Prosecutors say LaRhonda McCall's torture of her 14-year-old son was much worse than initially reported.

In an Oklahoma court yesterday, prosecutors said McCall and Hamilton beat the boy unmercifully with "fists, bike chains, cables, extension cords, and/or boards," leaving permanent scars.

They also contend she found inventive means to make the boy suffer. She once tied him naked to a ladder, then poured sugar water over him to attract ants. In another incident, she's accused of pouring alcohol on him and setting him aflame. Finally, she forced him to stand barefoot in the snow for 45 minutes.


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