Judge to Waukegan woman who killed daughter: 'How can humans do this?'
January 17, 2017 Carlos Sadovi
At one point referring to Nicholette Lawrence as a "monster mom," a Lake County Circuit Court judge sentenced her to 43 years in prison Tuesday for the murder of her 11-year-old daughter, Raashanai Coley.
Raashanai was found emaciated and dead in her Waukegan home after Lawrence called police to the residence on Sept. 5, 2014, two days after Lawrence had punched the 67-pound girl in the stomach, causing an infection that killed her, according to an autopsy report.
Multiple signs of past abuse were found on the girl's body, and trial testimony painted a terrible picture of abuse in the months leading up to her death.
"Who would lock a child up in a closet furnished only with a sink and feed the child only a bowl of cereal a day?" Circuit Judge James Booras said in handing down the sentence. Booras said sometimes "a stranger or an evil individual" might engage in such behavior.
"But a mother? It's why I refer to her as a monster mom," Booras added. "I saw photos of the autopsy. The state made reference (that it looked like) she came from a prison camp. No. It looked like she came out of concentration prison camp. How can humans do this? Animals don't do this to their own."
Booras noted that the sentence must be served in its totality, meaning Lawrence will not be eligible for good-behavior time off. She will be given credit for more than two years served in Lake County Jail, so Lawrence, now 35, could be released at approximately age 76.
Booras said he had to take into consideration that the sentence must not be excessive in the eyes of the law, but he said the possibility exists that considering the time involved, the state may see its request for life in prison realized.
After the sentencing, Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim called the sentence "sound."
"The judge hit the nail on the head when he said the treatment of this girl was inhumane and pure evil," Nerheim said. "This case really affected everyone that worked on it. I want to credit the Waukegan Police Department and my staff."
Prosecutors Fred Day and Eric Kalata declined to comment on the sentence itself, but Day said he hoped Raashanai's abuse and murder would not be the only thing to define her.
"It's important to realize there was a time when Raashanai was a happy, beautiful child, with all the potential in the world," Day said. "It's important we remember her that way and remember this."
Lawrence showed no visible reaction to the sentence, after crying throughout much of her two-day sentencing hearing last week.
Defense attorneys were not immediately available for comment after the sentencing.
Booras referenced more than once that he believed the girl's death was intentionally planned, and that Lawrence was not alone when abuse occurred involving Raashanai.
Referring to video clips showed in court last week in which Lawrence could be heard screaming obscenities at the child and loudly beating her, Booras said he could reach no conclusion other than "this was an orchestrated way to kill this child."
"The defendant and others ... treated this child as an animal," Booras said. "We saw the video of this child being beaten by her mother with a belt, and to someone's amusement. Someone was videotaping it. People are strange."
The State's Attorney's Office has stated that they have neither been provided nor found any evidence at this time implicating Lawrence's husband, who is Raashanai's stepfather, in the girl's death. He was living in the house prior to the murder, along with two young children, a half-brother and half-sister of Coley.
Lawrence pleaded guilty to murder in the case unconditionally, receiving nothing from the state in return. She faced a sentence of 20 years to natural life in prison.
Day had said that the graphic testimony and images provided in court Thursday and Friday "demanded that the state request a sentence of life in prison."
Defense attorney Keith Grant, citing Lawrence's unconditional guilty plea and an abusive childhood, said last week that he knew she faces a long sentence but asked the judge to provide her with hope "for some small sliver of life after prison."
The hearing last week concluded with a tearful statement from Lawrence to the court in which she said she took full responsibility for her actions and said that after taking numerous classes in jail, she hopes to educate other women about the factors that led to the death of Raashanai.
"I just want to say to you and everyone that I am truly sorry for what has happened," Lawrence said. "There is not a second of the day I am not tormented by (the) pictures in my mind. I rarely sleep.
"But it's not about me. I hope someday to help others so they don't have to be filled with the sadness and grief of causing something so horrible to their own child."
Grant said during the sentencing hearing that Lawrence was part of a classic "cycle of abuse" caused by violent, drug- and alcohol-addicted parents, having allegedly been physically and sexually abused by her own parents and others at a young age. He said she learned violence and abuse as "the norm" as a very young child, and never recovered.
Grant said there were claims that Lawrence was sexually abused as young as the age of three, and that "by the time she was 12 her mother was smoking pot with her. This was the only life she knew."
He said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a teenager.
Police and paramedics testified Thursday that by the time they were called to the home in 2015, Raashanai Coley was no longer breathing and could not be revived.
A Waukegan paramedic testified that the girl "appeared very frail and thin. She appeared very emaciated, almost as if she were a cancer patient." He also described her severely distended stomach due to the injury.
Autopsy photos shown in court showed what appeared to be scars and marks all over her thin body.
Raashanai's half-brother, who was six at the time, said in an interview with investigators shown last week in court that his parents told him and his sister that Raashanai was "bad," and that they kept her locked up in a small closet in their bedroom that contained only a sink and a covered window.
The boy said Raashanai was rarely fed, did not eat with the family and was often beaten by her mother, who sometimes used her hands and sometimes used a belt.
He said a stick was also used by family members to beat Raashanai on occasion. Prosecutors said that a belt and a stick similar to the ones described by the boy were recovered from the house.
Authorities said police received a domestic violence call to the home in 2011, reported by a neighbor, and that when officers arrived and saw marks on her face, Raashanai acknowledged she had been struck.
The half-brother indicated in his interview that it was that incident that led to a major change in the girl's parents' attitude toward her.
"Maybe there can be some ignorance found in the view of parenting the defendant has exhibited," Booras said Tuesday morning. "But the cruelty, torment and torture cannot be attributed to that."
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 4:06 AM
It took city officials five months to confirm what neighbors suspected immediately: 3-year-old Caleb Rivera was a murder victim.
“I had an idea,” said Nikki Whatley, 39, who performed CPR on the gaunt little boy outside their East Harlem apartment building last August.
“I still see that boy’s eyes in my nightmare and in my dreams,” said Whatley, the mother of four. “That boy was lifeless when I got to him.”
Caleb’s death was declared a homicide Friday after the city medical examiner determined he was killed by multiple blows to the head and neck.
The boy’s mother, who was in their apartment with two men when Caleb was mortally injured, insisted she had no idea who was to blame for her son’s killing.
“I am not talking to anybody about anything,” mom Alexandra Guzman said from behind the door of her apartment on Friday. “I am not giving up anything. Why are you harassing me?”
Asked specifically who killed little Caleb Rivera, the mother answered, “Nobody. It was — have a good day. Nobody. That is the only answer you’ll get from me.”
Construction worker Adrian Rivera, 24, the child’s father, said he’s suspected for months that Guzman was hiding something.
“He was a happy healthy baby and I loved my baby,” he said. “They should both go to jail. I want to know: Did he do this and then she covered up? If the police won’t do something, I will.”
Rivera said after he and Guzman broke up, she barred him from seeing Caleb. He said he begged her to bring the baby to his mother’s house. “She wouldn’t. I texted her the week before (Caleb died): ‘Please bring me my baby.’ She said she was good where she was. She wouldn’t bring him to me, and then this happened.”
April, Child Abuse Awareness month, has passed. It went by without any comment from the Director of Social Services, Ted Myers (“…blood is thicker than water…”, or attorney Andrew Wolf, (“…we do the legally correct thing…”).
interviews with Santa Barbara’s KEYT-TV a few of years ago on the question
raised by a Ventura County Star editorial regarding the whereabouts of Mario,
these gentlemen, in making the above statements, attempted to explain why Social Service workers,
and an a child advocate attorney advocate and/or permit the re-unification of
an abused child with its abuser(s). Mario was a toddler beaten into a coma by his mother. Social workers reunified Mario with his mother even though he continued to be abused.
We have heard, and continue to hear, numerous times that Social Services’ purpose is to protect children from abuse. The child’s advocate in Court is supposed to also protect their right to freedom from abuse. Neither succeeds.
And the reason they do not is revealed by their statements. Their hands are tied. Mr. Wolf is correct, re-unification is the legally correct thing to do, never mind that questions of ethics and morality are raised by the re-unification of a person who lacks love and parenting skills with a child who is helpless to speak for or defend himself.
And, yes, though it is a convenient and telling euphemism, blood is thicker than water. It merely goes to prove the point that a tiny human feels a craving for and needs love from the only caregiver it has known from birth. Though the child bonds, the adult may not want to or cannot commit to a responsibility.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, saw the tragedies brought about by the abuse of children. They saw not only the physical and emotional effects, but also acknowledged that deaths of children were sometimes the outcome of such conduct. They further saw the financial toll upon society, not only for the treatment of the physical and emotional injuries, but upon the fact that some of these children become a financial burden rather than positive contributors to society. As Congress does best they began the battle against child abuse by passing laws, in this case, Title 42 of the United States Code, Chapter 67, Section 5106a.
This released money to fund Social Services and created responsibilities to fund programs. It created a confidentiality clause to protect not only the child’s identity and reputation but also that of the abuser. It required every State to pass a law saying that re-unification of the abused with its abuser was not required. But it also stated that despite a parent or caregiver having killed or assaulted a child the State (read as Judge), could, on a case by case basis, reunify a child of the sibling with the killer or abuser. Congress sat back; it had passed a law to protect children.
words, blood is thicker than water and re-unification is the legally correct
thing to do, regardless of what further injuries the
child will suffer.
I recently attended a meeting where I listened to
gut-wrenching stories from adults who feared for the safety of their children
who were reporting sexual crimes against them by family members. As the founder of The Children’s Wall of
Tears™, these stories are not new to me as I hear hundreds of cases each year.
Recently Leo and I visited the great city of Oklahoma and toured the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial. Without a doubt, this memorial strengthened our faith in the American people, our patriotism and our feelings against terrorism. We could not help but walk away from this great monument with a passion that undoubtedly carved our futures. Throughout our tour of the memorial we could not help but think about the 168 lives lost in this horrific event. There was one particular photo on the wall of the daycare center showing children that were signed-in that fateful day. It haunts us. What madman would callously murder innocent children, let alone adults?
We read every sign and studied every photo in the museum. We were overwhelmed with sadness and rage at the very same time. We began to systematically think about terrorism and what it really means and how it affects our lives.
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terroization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Terrorism begins with creating a fear within the victim and escalates quickly to injury and in many cases death. Until September 11, 2001, few Americans were aware that terror existed beyond that seen on movies or on TV. After 911, we became aware of our vulnerability to suffering at the hands of people who find it acceptable to inflict pain on innocent people without blinking an eye. The bombing in Oklahoma City traumatized this great nation. We were forced to face the anxiety of knowing that at any time, in any place, violence can strike, and in that respect, we are now victims of terrorism.
While we feel a deep sadness for the victims of the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., the plane crash in Pennsylvania and their families and the Oklahoma City Bombing and their families, who have lived to suffer the devastating pain of the loss of a loved one, we began to think about the children here in the United States who live under this anxiety every day. How did we overlook their terrorism? Most call it child abuse. We call it child cruelty.
In child’s world, violence comes not at the hands of politically motivated extremists, but from their parents or caregivers. Suffering comes not from weapons of mass destruction, but fists, belts, scalding water, locked in dark closets, and cruel words. Attacks are not a rare occurrence, but a daily reality. Knowing that it is coming is the epitome of terrorism especially since a child is incapable of defending himself and does not know where to turn to avoid the torture and pain of neglect or abuse.
We kept thinking about the fact that while we watched news coverage of buildings crumbling and thousands of terrified, innocent people running for their lives, young spirits are being crushed at the hands of heartless adults with no high-profile media coverage to spark a country to awareness and action. Yes, we occasionally see, hear and read of young victims being abused or killed, but, few people are moved to act. The usual response to such news is an “…Oh, no!...” statement, and then on to breaking news.
While troops of rescue workers sift through debris in a desperate attempt to recover victims, young children are cowering in corners after yet another merciless beating, wondering if anyone cares enough to rescue them. While an entire nation mourns for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City Bombing, abused children continue to suffer horrifically with no tears of sadness shed on their behalf. Is it apathy on the part of the general public? Apparently so. we don’t see any great rush of humanity at the breaking story of another child being beaten or killed. Nor do we see more than platitudes from public officials or legislators. Yes, you will hear comments that such and such should be investigated. You hear that so and so is understaffed, overworked, and over whelmed but you do not hear from the front line workers who deal with child abuse on a daily basis.
For the past 25 years, we have been working to increase America’s awareness to the horrors of child cruelty and to bring the reality of the unimaginable level of physical and mental suffering these children deal with to the forefront.
We have written numerous commentaries and letters to the editors of newspapers and given speeches and talks to various groups and organizations. We have spoken in Washington, D.C. before a distinguished group of professionals and even sponsored a law in the California Legislature to provide computerized criminal history to child protective service workers so that they do not reunify the child with criminals. Unfortunately, that law failed in the appropriations department. Apparently $50,000 for the entire State of California is not worth protecting children. We have spent anguished hours over the opposition we have received and welcomed the pats on the back. But, child cruelty continues and children continue to live the daily terror awaiting the next blow.
Statistics show that everyday, scores of children are terrorized by abusive parents and that list continues to grow each year. Every 10 seconds a child is abused. Every 5 hours a child is killed. In cold, hard terms that means that every day a small hand is held over a flame, an infant is dipped in scalding water, a child is forced to swallow household cleansers, an empty stomach grumbles while parents eat, a terrified toddler trembles in a dark, locked closet, a tiny arm is broken, a life comes to a premature end. The scenes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were difficult to look at, but, they can’t compare to the scenes that flash in front of the small eyes of an abused child.
I leave it to you to decide if a child, under these circumstances, is experiencing not only terror but wondering when it all will end.
The unified resolve shown by the American people following the recent terrorist attacks is impressively powerful and elicits confidence that swift, sure action will be taken to punish and prevent terrorist acts. If only that same level of mass resolve were focused on saving abused children. If only our country stood unified in the defense of these helpless children, how many young victims of daily terrorism could be saved? How many small spirits could be recovered? How many terrorists could be stopped?
We wonder what horrendous atrocity must occur to a child before every American resolves to put an end to child cruelty in every home in which it occurs.We have stated before, in print and speeches, that there is a pandemic of child cruelty throughout the world. Now, with the advent of the bird flu, mad cow disease, tainted spinach, Aids and other “epidemics”, the word pandemic has become as familiar to us as the word terrorism and, unfortunately, we must now state that a pandemic of child cruelty now exists on this Planet.
Simply put in perspective, if a
disease were killing hundreds of children in America each year, the Center for Disease
Control would mobilize everything it could to find the cause. Federal and State governments would spend
millions on treatment and trying to find a cure. No stone would be left un-turned and no sum of
money would be too great in an effort to end the pandemic. Over 3,000 children are kiled through abuse and neglect each year. Is that not an epidemic in your eyes?
Yes, our lives were forever changed by our visit to the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial
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Body of Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found Near Lake Cachuma as His Father Is Accused of His Murder
The body of a missing 5-year-old California boy last seen in late April has been found near a Santa Barbara County lake, homicide detectives confirmed to PEOPLE Saturday.
Aramazd Andressian Jr. was found near Lake Cachuma on Friday, after additional leads brought homicide detectives back to the area searching for additional evidence.
The discovery came hours after the boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., was extradited to Los Angeles where he has been charged with the 5-year-old’s murder. The 35-year-old man was detained on June 23 in Las Vegas in connection with his son’s death, and is being held on $10 million bail on a single murder count.
The boy was last seen on April 20, when he and his father visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. They left the theme park around midnight.
Within a week of the boy’s disappearance, police arrested his dad on suspicion of one count of child endangerment and one count of child abduction. But they released him days later , citing “insufficient evidence.” It was not immediately clear what prompted his re-arrest.
Officials confirm that Andressian, Sr. and his wife, Ana Estevez, are embroiled in a bitter divorce, but they shared custody of their son.
Andressian, Jr. was supposed to be dropped off by his father in San Marino, California, on April 22 — but the elder Andressian failed to show. Instead, he was found passed out near his car in a nearby park. Police have alleged that the inside of his car was doused with gasoline and there were matches in his vehicle.
Andressian, Sr. told investigators he believed he was attacked, but he had no memory of the assault. He also told police he had taken some prescription medication that morning before falling unconscious, CNN reported .
“There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the timeline around his disappearance,” Andressian, Sr. wrote in a statement issued nearly a week after his son vanished. “The last time I saw my son was on Saturday morning, the 22nd, at Arroyo Park near my home in South Pasadena. After breakfast Aramazd Jr. wanted to go to the park before we were to meet his mother for a custody exchange at 9:00 a.m.”
“In one moment, I was at the park with my son, and then I found myself waking up in Huntington Memorial Hospital hours later,” he continued. “I was told that a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the ground near my car, with young Aramazd nowhere in sight. I can only speculate that I must have been attacked in the park, given my unresponsive state and subsequent physical condition.”
“My family and I are heartbroken and grief-stricken that Aramazd Jr. is missing and may be in harm’s way,” he continued. “I am pleading with the public to come forward with any knowledge of Aramazd Jr.’s whereabouts or information regarding the circumstances leading up to his disappearance.”
Estevez has also spoken publicly , pleading for the public’s help at a May news conference with law enforcement.
“There are no words to describe how devastated and heartbroken I am,” Estevez said through tears, before speaking directly to her son. “This message is for you my love: Be brave, honey. Don’t ever forget that mama loves you to the moon and the stars. I am counting the days until I see you honey, and I will never stop looking for you.”
“To those who are concealing my son, I pray every day that God will touch your heart and guide you to do the right thing and return my son,” she said.
Anyone with any information about this ongoing case can call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500 or police in South Pasadena, California, at 626-403-7297.