Child, 11, Starved to Death

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11-year-old Jerome Brown being bathed by a community dweller upon discovery, just minutes before his death.

In the home of his biological father and stepmother

It was a sad day on February 14, 2021, in the Palm Beach community in Paynesville on the ELWA beach side, when residents discovered an almost lifeless body of 11-year-old Jerome Brown, who was kept in a zinc shack by both his stepmother and biological father without eating or drinking for “three weeks.”

According to community residents, since July last year, they have seen little Jerome with his father Emmanuel Brown and stepmother, only identified as Wanee, in the neighborhood, or in other instances with other children playing, but there came a time that the child suddenly disappeared.  

Expressing dismay, Hawa Joma, a resident of the community, said she saw a lot of community dwellers going toward the Brown family’s zinc shack saying that they saw a terrible living creature coming out of the house but Emmanuel’s wife pushed it back after noticing that people have seen the creature.

According to Hawa, when she saw the crowd, she followed to get details about what had happened and, at the scene, she saw the community leadership and others demanding to see what was in the house.

 After some time of inquiry, they realized that it was a severely malnourished child who had been kept in confinement and had lost weight to the point of bones showing underskin in the home of the child’s own biological father.

According to Hawa, through a neighbor, the community members discovered that the child was in the house in a very dire condition.

“Because the lady was not too sure, she decided to stay back to observe for a while, and that was how she managed to see the object. Not sure if it were human, she used her phone to take a picture, and that’s how she took it to the chairman and other community members and they were able to reach the home to ask the father what was in his house,” Hawa said.

“When we reached the house,” Hawa said, “The community leadership asked what was in the house, but the child’s father said nothing was in the house.”

Little Jerome Brown after taken out out of parents house

Hawa explained that the community leadership later invited the office the Liberia National Police (LNP), who forcefully enter the house and started to search.

“After searching the house, they came across what appeared like a box that had three pieces of zincs and three pieces of ceiling. So they opened it and saw the little child,” she said.

“Fear overtook the entire community after seeing the child, but that man was brave to start bathing the child. When they tried to wash the child’s mouth, he vomited mattress and plastic that he may have eaten due to hunger,” Hawa explained.  

She said, “The last word the boy said was, “I want a drink,” and died right in the hands of the people that were bathing him.”

How Jerome came to his Father

Jerome’s mother, Mama Cole, was with Emmanuel for 10 years and they divorced because of misunderstanding.

Jerome was one of three children Mama bore for Emmanuel. After their relationship broke apart, Mama said she took her children to Grand Bassa where they lived until her former boyfriend requested that the child should go to be with him in Monrovia.  From one point to the other, she finally agreed to send the child to his father. 

She said that since the boy came to the father, she has made it her duty to call often to find out about him, and whenever she calls, the former boyfriend will say the child is at the beach or somewhere, just to provide an excuse.

“In our last talk, Emmanuel told me that the boy was sleeping and I hung up the telephone call but, as I was sitting these few days, a friend called to tell me that my son has turned into a skeleton, something that I least expected,” Mama said.

While trying to establish whether the information was true, she received a phone call from a friend telling her that her son was dead.

Emmanuel is currently in a police withholding cell at the Zone 8 Depot as his documents undergo preparation to forward him to court.

“All I want is justice for my son because a human being cannot treat an innocent child in such a manner, even if he did anything wrong,” Mama said.

She called on the government, human rights and child right advocates to ensure that her son gets justice.    

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