"Clearly this is a case of child abuse."
That's how Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey describes the beating death of a 5-year-old North Philadelphia boy allegedly at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.
"People that had no business with children to do something like that to a 5-year-old is just beyond my capability to comprehend," Ramsey told NBC10's Lu Ann Cahn Monday morning.
Police were called to West Poplar Apartments at 637 North 13th Street shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. Lashay Patterson, 23, told police she found her son Dashawn Harris unresponsive. He was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly before 1:30 a.m.
"The body had obvious signs of trauma -- burn marks, bruising," Ramsey said.
Investigators said the young victim showed obvious signs of physical abuse and reportedly wasn't the first time young Dashawn was hurt.
Credit: Family Photo
"The mother and the boyfriend admit that they've struck the child and have burned the child in the past," Ramsey said.
Family members tell NBC10 he lived with Patterson, and her boyfriend, Christian Patrick, 25. They were both arrested and charged with murder and other related offenses.
"I'm hurt, crushed," said Francisco Harris, the boy's father. "I want to see justice in this because my son didn't deserve that. I tried to see him and they didn't let me see him. I tried to contact them and she wouldn't let me contact them."
Other family members tell NBC10 they tried repeatedly to see Dashawn as well as his younger brother but the couple repeatedly said no. Dashawn's younger brother is now staying with relatives. They believe he was also being abused.
"Not Lashay, I never would have thought she would do something like that," said the boy's grandmother Grace Fitch. "She was the sweetest person. She really was."
The question remained what exactly family members and possibly officials knew about the abuse.
"I don't know if DHS was aware of the family or not or if it had been reported," Ramsey said. "If it was not reported, as far as I'm concerned, those people outta be charged if they knew about it.
"A 5-year-old is helpless... they're not going to pick up the phone and call family services if they're being abused. It's up to adults to do that. So if we really have people who knew it was going on and failed to act then, in my opinion, there outta be consideration given towards charging them."
An autopsy will be performed on the boy to determine the exact cause of death.
Ramsey hopes the parents "never see the light of day again."
"Hopefully after they're tried they get life sentences."