Mom and boyfriend 'equally responsible' for Zymere Perkins' murder: prosecutors
Six-year-old Zymere Perkins’ mom and her boyfriend are “equally responsible” for his “depraved” slaying, Manhattan prosecutors acknowledged Monday during closing arguments in the boyfriend’s murder trial.
Assistant District Attorney Kerry O’Connell said that while Rysheim Smith faces life in prison for the boy’s fatal 2016 beating, his mother, Geraldine Perkins, is just as responsible for his death — even though prosecutors gave her a slap-on-the-wrist plea deal.
“[Zymere] didn’t have to imagine anything to be afraid of,” O’Connell said in Manhattan Supreme Court. “He didn’t have monsters. He had two horrible human beings living down the hall next to him.”
“Rysheim and Geraldine are both equally responsible for his depraved murder.”
Perkins, 29, agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and to testify against Smith in exchange a more lenient prison sentence of two to six years. She’s already spent three years behind bars, for which she’ll get credit, which means she could walk free at sentencing.
But prosecutors on Monday argued that Smith, 49, is the one who inflicted the physical damage that killed on the little boy on Sept. 26, 2016, while Perkins just stood by.
Prosecutors alleged that Smith starved and tortured the boy for months, then finally killed him inside the family’s unkempt Harlem apartment — bludgeoning him with a broomstick, shoving him under a cold shower and then hanging him, wet and unconscious, on a hook, before throwing him against a wall.
O’Connell told the jurors Monday that Smith “admitted he knew Zymere was petrified of the cold shower,” and “admitted that he physically disciplined “ the boy.
The prosecutor said Zymere was “severely malnourished, significantly dehydrated” as a result of the ongoing abuse.
“Was he aware of the grave risk of physical injury?” O’Connell said. “Who could not be aware of that? Look at the kid’s body.”
She argued that Perkins — who she said is around 5-feet tall and weighed 100 pounds at the time — was physically incapable of inflicting the damage found on Zymere’s body.
An autopsy revealed the little boy had more than 30 rib fractures, and jurors on Monday turned their heads away when shown images of Zymere’s bruised body.
Perkins admitted during her testimony in Smith’s trial that she had previously beat Zymere with a belt and starved him as punishment, and did nothing to intervene in his fatal beating.
She said she spent 10 minutes putting on makeup before taking her son’s lifeless body to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
But in his closings, Smith’s lawyer argued that Perkins was the real killer.
Defense attorney Arnold Levine alleged the mom couldn’t handle her hyperactive son, and finally snapped — worried that the boy would destroy her relationship with Smith.
“Geraldine felt that Zymere is jeopardizing her relationship with prince charming,” the lawyer said. “She is afraid. She is taking it out on Zymere.”
He told jurors that Perkins “lied at every stage” of the case, and cut the plea deal to save herself.
“She has never taken responsibility,” he said. “She had to give up Rysheim to get something.”
“Rysheim cared whether that little boy lived or died that day,” Levine added. “She did not. She killed her little boy.”
The Administration for Children’s Services had five prior investigations into alleged abuse of Zymere when he died, and the tragic case sparked an outcry about failings in the city’s child services system.
The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations Tuesday.