Cou­ple seeks to sup­press ev­i­dence

Mother, boyfriend charged in child’s beat­ing death

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Mont­coCourtNews on Twit­ter

NORRISTOWN » Pros­e­cu­tors want a jury to hear re­marks a 4-year-old boy made to rel­a­tives re­gard­ing the phys­i­cal abuse he suf­fered al­legedly at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend in the months lead­ing up to his death in their Abing­ton home.

Tahjir Smith, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers, al­legedly told rel­a­tives that his mother Lisa Smith, 20, “beat him” when he uri­nated on him­self and that Smith’s boyfriend, Keiff King, 26, “beat him up” and put him in a shed and “put a ‘welp’ on him.” Rel­a­tives, pros­e­cu­tors al­leged, told in­ves­ti­ga­tors they ob­served vis­i­ble in­juries on Tahjir, such as “black eyes, burn marks, lumps and welts,” and that on at least two oc­ca­sions they took phys­i­cal cus­tody of Tahjir be­cause they were con­cerned for the child.

Mont­gomery County First As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ed-

ward F. McCann Jr. and co­pros­e­cu­tor Lau­ren Heron ar­gued to a judge the fact rel­a­tives took phys­i­cal cus­tody of Tahjir from Smith and King at times is “highly pro­ba­tive” ev­i­dence that the cou­ple was en­dan­ger­ing Tahjir and that they knew they were harm­ing him. Ad­di­tion­ally, pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued, Tahjir’s al­leged state­ments are “pro­ba­tive of his fear.”

“It is highly pro­ba­tive ev­i­dence of the en­dan­ger­ment charge,” Heron ar­gued at a pre­trial hear­ing be­fore Judge Risa Vetri Fer­man, who must de­cide if a jury will hear the al­leged state­ments of Tahjir and those of the rel­a­tives he al­legedly con­fided in.

But de­fense lawyer Car­rie L. All­man, who rep­re­sents Smith, ar­gued the state­ments of Tahjir and fam­ily and friends are “hearsay” and should not be heard by a jury.

“I don’t be­lieve any of these are ad­mis­si­ble,” All­man ar­gued.

All­man also is at­tempt­ing to keep a jury from hear­ing Smith’s al­leged in­crim­i­nat­ing state­ment to de­tec­tives, ar­gu­ing it was co­erced and not vol­un­tary. Pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued Smith’s state­ment to de­tec­tives was ob­tained prop­erly and was vol­un­tar­ily pro­vided by Smith.

Fer­man took the pre­trial mat­ters un­der ad­vise­ment and will rule at a later date.

Smith and King, each of the 1800 block of Lukens Av­enue in the Wil­low Grove sec­tion of Abing­ton, face charges of first- and third­de­gree mur­der, at­tempted mur­der, ag­gra­vated as­sault, con­spir­acy and en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child in con­nec­tion with Tahjir’s Jan. 22 death.

Tahjir was pro­nounced dead at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing a day of pun­ish­ment over spilling his ce­real, au­thor­i­ties al­leged.

An au­topsy de­ter­mined Tahjir died from mul­ti­ple blunt and ther­mal in­juries and shock, ac­cord­ing to a crim­i­nal com­plaint filed by county De­tec­tive Gre­gory Henry and Abing­ton De­tec­tive Don­ald Lin­den­muth.

Fer­man sched­uled the joint jury trial for Smith and King for June 17, 2019. If con­victed of first-de­gree mur­der Smith and King, who is rep­re­sented by de­fense lawyer Jeremy-Evan Alva, would face life im­pris­on­ment. A con­vic­tion of third-de­gree mur­der car­ries a pos­si­ble max­i­mum sen­tence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

Both are be­ing held with­out bail at the Mont­gomery County Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity while await­ing trial. As they were led from the court­room af­ter their pre­trial hear­ings, Smith and King did not re­spond to a reporter’s ques­tions.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan about 6:09 p.m. Jan. 22 when Smith called 911 and re­ported her son was hav­ing an asthma at­tack. Emer­gency per­son­nel met Smith and the child on Columbia Av­enue and ob­served the child was limp and de­ter­mined he was de­ceased.

Smith ini­tially told po­lice she and Tahjir had just got­ten off a bus from Philadel­phia when she no­ticed the child was gasp­ing for air, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. But de­tec­tives de­ter­mined Smith and the child had been at their Lukens Av­enue home the en­tire day, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony.

Tahjir was pro­nounced dead at an Abing­ton hos­pi­tal and in­ves­ti­ga­tors ob­served “pat­tern im­prints, con­sis­tent with a shoe tread on the child’s but­tocks and what ap­peared to be a burn on the child’s shoul­der area,” ac­cord­ing to the ar­rest af­fi­davit.

In state­ments to de­tec­tives Smith and King each ad­mit­ted they took part in dis­ci­plin­ing Tahjir while con­fronting him about spilling his ce­real on Jan. 22.

The boy was forced to main­tain a pushup po­si­tion, struck in the back of the head, beaten with a san­dal on his bare but­tocks and placed un­der hot wa­ter in a shower, de­tec­tives al­leged. Smith al­legedly told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that fol­low­ing the shower Tahjir ap­peared un­re­spon­sive and that later she ob­served the lit­tle boy’s eyes roll back into his head and his lips to be “mov­ing weird,” ac­cord­ing to the ar­rest af­fi­davit.

Keiff King

Lisa Smith

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