Mama Cole, the mother of 11-year-old Jerome Brown who died after being reportedly kept in a zinc shack by both his step-mother and biological father without eating or drinking for several weeks, has called on the Government of Liberia, and women and child rights advocates to ensure that the perpetrators associated with the alleged starving of her son bear the full weight of the law.
Mama, dispelling reasons given by her ex-boyfriend for the death of the child, said Jerome was very healthy to see his body in such a deplorable condition resulting to his death.
“Among all my children Jerome was the healthiest child; I was surprised when I saw him in such a skeletal form,” Mama told the Daily Observer, explaining her frustration that a ‘father’ would treat his own son in such a terrible manner without pity or even a fatherly feeling.
“I can feel very bad when I imagine the kind of pain my son bore before he died. I do not even feel the English word called mercy for Emmanuel and his wife… I only want to see them face the full weight of the law… if left with my decision, I want them to have life imprisonment for their action,” she cried.
She argued that Emmanuel was sleeping in the same home where he put the child in a box without giving him food or water. “If I had my own will, I will kill him (Emmanuel). The stepmother is the woman in the home; so if she knew that she was not able to take care of the child; she would have sent him back to me.”
She disclosed that due to the ill-treatment that was given the little child, his left leg broke so that he could not walk to come out of the house, adding that this was the main reason why the pregnant stepmother should be jailed.
“Wanneh was pregnant when she treated my child in such a terrible way so she needs to be prosecuted for that,” Mama said.
“As a mother,” Mama Cole said, “my son suffered…what is really hurting me is, I constantly communicated with Emmanuel and his wife, and they usually told me that the child was doing fine. I used to send them money, food items, and even clothes for my son; yet they treated him in this manner as if I was not concerned about him.”
“With my experience, Mama said, “I want to advise other women not to leave their children with stepmothers and father in case of separation.”
The Step Mother’s Account Jerome’s Death
Wanneh Tarpalah, the stepmother said it is unfortunate that people will lie around that she did not care for a child that she has taken like her own son. She said she was taking care the boy when his father goes on the sea for fishing.
“I will feed and bathe this child and wash his clothes and sometime, when his father stays home, he will help to take care of him. We did not refuse to give him food as said all over here,” she said.
Little Jerome’s almost lifeless body that LNP reported was decomposing
Wanneh said her husband had planned to take the child to the hospital when she surprisingly saw the entire community at their home asking for the child’s whereabouts.
“When we told the community people that the boy was sick, they entered the house and took the boy out, and that was how they informed the police saying that we starved the child to death,” she explained.
Wanneh said little Jerome used to sleep in the room with them; not in a box as the neighbors are telling people around.
She disclosed that before Jerome came to live with them, there were two other kids in the house, Emmanuel Brown, age 9 and Daniel Brown, age 2.
Community Members’ Views about Jerome
A resident, who asked not be named, said while it is true that the child was suffering from epilepsy, the major cause of his death came from starvation and other mal-treatments.
The resident explained, “On one occasion in August when Jerome defecated in his clothes stepmother sent him behind their house to wash his clothes in the rain, and it was that time that he almost died in the erosion. After that incident, the boy was kept in the house without eating rice but gari and water, with an assumption that it would stop him from toileting on himself again.”
Other females in the community said Jerome was a very healthy and active child whose father used to love him before his stepmother came into the home.
“We used to see Jerome playing with other kids or at times he will go on the beach to await the arrival of his father from the sea,” said another unnamed neighbor.
Felicia Blackstone, who lived in the neighborhood but moved prior to the death of Jerome, said, “I used to cook and give the child’s food to his father because they told him not to get out of the house. It reached to a point that his stepmother asked me to stop before he [stooled] on himself, but I refused.
She recounted, “Before Jerome’s stepmother arrived in the home, he used to play with other boys on the beach, but since his stepmother came, he was always sad among his friends.
According to Felicia, she returned from her father’s funeral and Jerome’s father and stepmother informed her that his mother had taken him to Grand Bassa to spend time with her. “Hearing his death is a surprise to me,” Felicia said.