The mother and father accused in the beating and neglect death of their 6-year-old son, a case that launched a review of how the Philadelphia Department of Human Services operated, went on trial today.
Tina Cuffie and Latiff Hadi are accused of murder, assault and child endangerment in the March 2012 death of their 6-year-old son Khalil Wimes.
It was ruled that Wimes, who weighed just 29 pounds at the time of his death, died due to blunt force trauma and malnutrition, which prosecutors say was the culmination of months of starvation and abuse.
During a preliminary hearing about a month after the death, details about eh alleged abuse emerged. An assistant medical examiner took the stand and described the boy’s body at the time of his death. He claimed it was covered with scars, both old and new.
Police say Cuffie told them on March 19, 2012 that Khalil fell when getting out of a tub. She allegedly hit him on the back of the head, causing him to become disoriented. She also allegedly told police that she often hit him because he was misbehaving or messing up. Finally, police say she confessed to not letting him out of the house for a month and that he was underweight because he wouldn’t drink water.
In court Monday, Cuffie's lawyers disputed that alleged confession.
Hadi allegedly told police they never took Khalil to the doctor because they were afraid they would call the Department of Health Services. Their five other children had already been removed from their care because of an alleged history of drug abuse, neglect and child abuse. Khalil himself was removed from the couple and lived with a foster family for three years. That family claimed a family court judge forced them to return Khalil to the Wimes after he turned 3 however.
“I’m horrified,” said Alicia Nixon, Khalil’s foster mother in the days after his death. “I couldn’t believe they could be those kinds of people.”
“He was defiant, they tried to break him and they couldn’t,” said La Reine Nixon, Khalil’s foster grandmother. “That’s why they did this to him.”
Investigators say a DHS worker had been in Wimes' home before Khalil died to check on another visiting child. After the incident Mayor Michael Nutter announced that worker had been relieved of duty pending an investigation.
“I find it extremely troubling that someone from the outside would have seen this child within a few weeks of his death and not made any reports,” said Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann.