A life lost to savage abuse

I want to tell you about a child named Jerry, who suffered savage abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to love him.

Jerry lost his life because of it.

When he was 19 months old, someone broke his arm. They never found out who, but years later his older brother and half-sister testified that the violence in their household back then came mostly from their father.

Beatings every day with a fist or belt, the brother said, "for as long as I can remember" and for "just about anything."

"The only thing he knew how to do was abuse my brothers," said his half-sister.

Sometimes he'd haul off on the mother, too, punching and choking her while Jerry and his brother cried and cried for him to stop.

At age 7, a neighbor called police to report Jerry and his brother huddling in an apartment stairwell, locked out of their apartment, and "not for the first time." The report also mentioned an allegation that Jerry had been "outright raped" once. The allegation went "unexplored."

By the time he was 9, there was a new man in the house — a stepfather — but they didn't trade up.

The man would beat on the boys about twice a week. He'd make them strip naked first. One time, the half-sister said, he struck Jerry more than 70 times with a belt for taking a lollipop.

"I heard him every time," she said. "I counted.… He just kept beating him and beating him and beating him and beating him, and I don't know why he didn't stop."

"Jerry didn't break down," the brother said. "Whenever we'd get beat or something, he wouldn't like, give in as easily as I would, and he would actually say, 'You shouldn't be doing this. You're not my dad….' Then (the stepfather) would keep hitting him more…. It was a battle between both of them, and then (Jerry) would eventually just get quiet and give in and just fall to the ground … crying."

One time, the brother said, the stepfather ordered him and Jerry to pull their pants down and "play with ourselves…. He stood there watching us while we were masturbating."

After the stepfather tried to sexually molest her, the half-sister said, she "often slept with a knife under her pillow."

At some point, Jerry witnessed a man rape his brother. Jerry hid, afraid he'd be next.

When he was 9, his stepfather beat him with a two-by-four, demanding to know if his mother was still sleeping with his biological father.

At age 11, he was in an emergency room covered with bruises. His stepfather was prosecuted for that and given a suspended sentence. The family was ordered into counseling. In sessions, the stepfather would tell Jerry how much he hated him.

At age 12, Jerry suffered a broken ankle and forearm.

At 13, a social worker wrote: "I get the impression that Jerry has been physically beaten by all the adults in his life." He was diagnosed with major depression, started taking Ritalin, began fighting in school, experimenting with alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and sex, and smearing feces on walls.

At 15, a psychologist found he was "impulsive, easily angered, guarded and mistrustful."

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