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Five-year-old boy beaten, starved to death, mother charged with murder

March 31, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ She was six months pregnant and bringing up five children on welfare, but Jocelyn Bennett’s life was looking up.

The 27-year-old Jamaican woman had recently moved into a new apartment that she kept immaculate with crisp white curtains and new furniture. She had the walls painted just last week.

But this weekend, the curtains parted to reveal a horror inside the fourth-floor Bronx home.

On Saturday afternoon, Ms. Bennett rushed her 5-year-old son, Daytwon, to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He died of heart failure brought on by malnutrition, Children’s Services Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta said Sunday. Ms. Bennett was charged with murder and remained in jail Sunday, her children in the custody of child welfare officials.

Daytwon had been starved and repeatedly beaten, with injuries to his head, torso, arms, legs and spine that were in various stages of healing, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.

Daytwon, who was 3 feet, 9 1/2 inches tall, weighed 30 pounds, a weight typical for a boy under age 3.

Of Ms. Bennett’s five children who lived with her, Daytwon ``seemed to have been singled out″ for abuse, Scopetta said. Her sixth child lives in Jamaica with his father.

Neighbors said Ms. Bennett is a loner.

``She was sad all the time, and she kept mostly to herself. She never spoke to people unless spoken to,″ said Cecelia Howell, an upstairs neighbor. ``But she took her children everywhere she went.″

Her 14-year-old son Deshawn, who worked for Ms. Bennett, said the other children ``were playing and happy,″ but Daytwon ``was different, he was quieter.″

Ms. Bennett’s children had been in and out of foster care since 1989, and they were all returned to her in June, Scopetta said. Since then, he said, caseworkers visited the family 13 times.

Daytwon’s death is reminiscent of the case of Nadine Lockwood, a 4-year-old girl who died of starvation in September. Her pregnant mother, who had six children, was arrested and charged with murder.

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