What to Know
- A mother and five other people appeared in court to answer to charges of “severely” beating and scalding her 3-year-old son
- All six of them allegedly beat the boy with a belt and their fists and poured scalding water on him “as a form of corporal punishment"
- Five other children in the Newark apartment where the abuse allegedly happened told police that they were encouraged to hurt him, too
Five of the six adults charged with severely beating and abusing a 3-year-old boy in New Jersey appeared before an Essex County judge Tuesday.
Prosecutors said the boy's mother, 43-year-old Natacha Smith, her live-in boyfriend Omar Searcy, 39, and four female roommates -- Patricia Gamarra, 62, Mary Buchan, 55, Patricia Buchan, 28, and Bridget Buchan, 23 -- all abused the toddler in their care.
They allegedly punched him and beat him with a belt when he misbehaved, but the worst punishment was reserved for when he had an accident: a pot of hot water to pour on the child in the bathtub when he misbehaved, according to prosecutor Kathleen Lyons-Boswick.
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The little boy's burns were discovered by a teacher at his day care, who called police. All six of the children in the home -- all under age 8 -- are now in foster care. The older children told police they were pressured by the adults in the home to join in the beatings of the toddler.
"The adults in the home taught the other children in the home to beat the 3-year-old with a belt," said prosecutors.
Defendant Patrician Buchan is pregnant with her fifth child, and that was a factor in the judge's decision that she be the only defendant released.
All pleaded not guilty, with some of the defendants claiming they were working so much they couldn't possibly have hurt the child. They're next due in court Jan. 4.