Ronnie Paris

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Ronnie Antonio Paris (December 9, 2001 – January 28, 2005) was a three-year-old boy who lived for only 1147 days with his parents in Tampa, Florida. He died due to brain injuries stemming from severe abuse at the hands of his father, who thought the child would turn out to be gay,[1][2] and forced the boy to box with him in an effort to keep him from growing up "soft" or becoming a "sissy."[3][4] The case brought attention to the Florida Department of Children & Families for failing to identify child abuse and neglect that likely led to the child's death within six weeks after being returned to the home from foster care.[5][6][7]

The background[edit]

In May 2002, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services removed Ronnie from his home and placed him in protective custody, after he was admitted to the hospital for repeated vomiting, and doctors determined he was undernourished and had a broken arm.[8]

On December 13, 2004, four days after his third birthday, Ronnie was returned to his parents. This replacement was the subject of investigation by the local press because they felt it represented a breakdown of the child welfare system.[9][10] On January 22, Ronnie slipped into a coma after falling asleep on a couch at a family friend's house, where his parents were attending a Bible study. Upon realizing he was unconscious, his parents rushed in to the hospital. Ronnie died six days later, when he was removed from life support.[11]

Detective Anthony Zambito was suspicious and testified that "it wasn't until investigators questioned them separately" that the boy's mother spoke of abuse.[3] During an investigation of the child's death, his mother—Nysheera Paris—told detectives that her husband—Ronnie Paris, Sr. -- had repeatedly abused the child, slapping him in the back of the head, slamming him into walls, and forcing the child to participate in father-son boxing matches until the boy began to shake, cry, and wet himself.[12]

The trial[edit]

The child's father was charged with murder and aggravated child abuse.[3] His mother was charged with child neglect and failing to get medical attention for her son.[13] In July 2005, Ronnie Paris Sr. went on trial for his son's murder facing a maximum of 15 years for the death.[3] During the trial witnesses testified the boy had been slapped around and thrown into walls by his dad to toughen him up.[14][15] Nysheera Paris testified that her husband thought their son might be gay, and that he would smack the boy in the back of the head and slam him into walls because he didn't want his son to grow up "soft."[16] Her testimony was corroborated by her sister, Shanita Powell, who said "He was trying to teach him how to fight," and told the court "He was afraid the child might be gay."[17][18] Family friend Sheldon Bostick, who attended Bible study with the Paris family, testified that Ronnie Paris, Sr., "slap-boxed" with his son because "He didn't want him to be a sissy"[19] Ronnie Sr. had reported this was how he had been taught, by his father, to take a punch.[20]

Forensic pathologist Dr. Sam Gulino noted the child's scarred face and bruised head, and told the court that the lethargy and vomiting spells, the coma and eventual death were due to head trauma that was not accidental but deliberately inflicted.

The child's foster mother testified that during the two years he lived with her, Ronnie never vomited, and had a healthy appetite.[21]

The aftermath[edit]

In July 2005, after three hours of deliberation,[22] a jury convicted Ronnie Paris, Sr. of second degree manslaughter and aggravated child abuse in the death of his son.[23] On August 19, 2005, he was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment,[24] and ten years probation.[25] The mother Nysheera Paris was sentenced to 5 years probation for culpable negligence in the death of her son.[26]

The crime is also seen as a hate crime by LGBT supporters, including Tennessee artist James McKissic who premiering a large scale painting of Ronnie Jr. along with two other "youth of color who were victims of hate crimes" at the Chattanooga African American Museum in 2008.[27] The Gay American Heroes Foundation, memorializing GLBT murder victims of “hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias,” will include Ronnie Jr. in their traveling memorial that visits cities where someone has been murdered for being LGBT or thought to be.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pitts, Leonard Jr. (July 23, 2005). "Real Men Don't Kill Their Sons". Sun Journal. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Butte, William (March 21, 2008). "Victimization of Gays Gets Little Attention". South Florida Sun - Sentinel. p. A.27. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ortega, Fidel (July 14, 2005). "Thought Toddler Gay, Dad Kills Son". 365gay.com. Archived from the original on December 10, 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "Man Sentenced to 30 Years for Fatal Beating of Son". The Victoria Advocate. August 21, 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "Man Gets 30-Year Term for Killing Son: Boy, 3, dies less than six weeks after his return home from foster care". Associated Press. August 21, 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Krueger, Curtis (February 5, 2005). "A child's welfare can leave big choice: Caseworkers and judges routinely deal with emotionally charged situations when they handle custody cases.". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "DCF Worker Criticized in Boys Death". Miami Herald. March 5, 2005. p. 3B Metro & State. 
  8. ^ "Couple Are Charged In Abuse Death of 3-Year-Old Son". Lakeland Ledger. February 2, 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Krueger, Curtis (March 20, 2005). "Why did beaten baby return to parents?: Officials couldn't identify his abuser, so Ronnie was returned to his family - where he died.". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  10. ^ Krueger, Curtis (February 25, 2005). "Report raps Hillsborough agency". Tampa Bay Times. p. 4.B. 
  11. ^ Man accused of killing 'gay' baby son, PlanetOut, July 14, 2005
  12. ^ "Mom testifies dad beat their 3-year-old son," St. Petersburg Times, July 19, 2005
  13. ^ "Parents charged in death of son," St. Petersburg Times, February 2, 2005
  14. ^ "Too Close To Home". Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. July 24, 2005. 
  15. ^ "Man Gets 30 Years For Killing Son, 3". Akron Beacon Journal. August 21, 2005. p. A4 Nation. 
  16. ^ "Man gets 30-year-term for death of his son, 3". Eugene Register-Guard. August 21, 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  17. ^ Pitts, Leonard (July 19, 2005). "What Being A Man Means". The Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  18. ^ "Man kills three year old son in attempt to keep him from being 'gay'". Between The Lines News. July 21, 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  19. ^ "Dad Boxed with 3-Year-Old, Mom Says in Murder Trial," TBO.Com News, July 13, 2005
  20. ^ Rondeaux, Candace (August 20, 2005). "Dad sentenced to 30 years in death of boy, 3: The toddler, who had spent most of his life in foster care, had recently been returned to his parents' home.". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "Toddler's autopsy detailed at trial," St. Petersburg Times, July 14, 2005
  22. ^ "Jury Finds Father Guilty in Death of Little Boy", TBO.Com News, July 15, 2005
  23. ^ "Florida man convicted of murdering 3-year-old 'gay' son," Advocate.Com, July 19, 2005
  24. ^ "Father Gets 30 Years," TBO.Com News, August 20, 2005
  25. ^ "Man Gets 30 Years in Fatal Beating of Son". Gainesville Sun. August 20, 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  26. ^ "Woman gets five years in son's death," St. Petersburg Times, January 10, 2006
  27. ^ "McKissic to show artwork at Chattanooga African American Museum Some works inspired by GLBT writers, hate-crime victims". Out & About. August 21, 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  28. ^ Adams, Celene (December 27, 2007). "‘How many more gay murders until you get involved?’ Gay American Heroes Foundation to launch". Gay & Lesbian Times. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 

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