updated 6/9/2008 7:17:41 PM ET 2008-06-09T23:17:41

Two people have been charged with beating a 3-year-old boy who died in their care, despite repeated visits from city officials and concerns by neighbors that the child was being abused.

Kyle Smith was sodomized, beaten, doused with cold water and forced to do push-ups and march in place as punishment, according to court papers. His numerous injuries included a torn tongue, bruises to his back, buttocks, legs and scrotum, and lacerations inside his anus.

The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital Friday after police were called to the Brooklyn apartment where he lived with Nymeen Cheatham, 30, and her companion Lemar Martin, 25, who were not the boy's parents.

The death has been ruled a homicide. Cheatham and Martin were arrested Saturday and arraigned Sunday on charges including assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, said charges against Cheatham and Martin could be upgraded following an investigation.

Martin's attorney, Spiro Ferris, did not return a call seeking comment Monday. Attempts to reach Cheatham's attorney, Joseph Miller, were unsuccessful.

A judge ordered that they be held without bail.

Failing to report abuse
Neighbors told the Daily News that they saw the boy being abused and now regret failing to report it to authorities.

"Everyone could have said something but nobody did," Hason Parker told the paper. "Now this little boy is dead."

Parker said he once saw Cheatham screaming at Kyle outside in the cold. "It was 15 degrees and she had this heavy jacket on and he was in pajama shorts and a tank," Parker said. "The little boy was shivering and crying."

Police and social workers from the city's Administration for Children's Services had visited the home and reported no signs of abuse. Cheatham and Martin did not have legal custody of Kyle, but he was living with them after his drug-addicted mother gave him up last year.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said officers were called to the home four times since late 2007, all for issues related to visitation with Kyle's biological father, Darien Smith.

Sheila Stainback, a spokeswoman for ACS, said the agency conducted a court-ordered investigation of the home last October after Cheatham filed for legal custody of Kyle.

"We found the house in order and the child happy and healthy at that time," she said.

Cheatham did not pursue legal custody, and ACS had no further official role in the matter.

Cheatham's and Martin's apartment is in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant section, the same neighborhood where 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown was killed in January 2006. The scrawny and battered girl was bound to a chair, starved and forced to urinate in a litter box before she was killed with a fatal blow to the head.

That case shocked the city and created pressure for reforms at ACS. The agency hired 20 "protective agents" with previous law enforcement experience to serve as consultants and help caseworkers improve their investigative skills.

The city also started a campaign to try to get New Yorkers to report suspected abuse.

Stainback said no one reported Cheatham or Martin for abuse.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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