Zymere Perkins, 6, died in September 2016

By Harriet Sokmensuer
May 19, 2021 08:20 AM
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zymere Perkins
Zymere Perkins
| Credit: Facebook

A New York City man has been sentenced to prison after being convicted of murdering his girlfriend's 6-year-old son in 2016.

On Monday, Rysheim Smith, 42, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, PIX11, NBC4 and the New York Daily News report. Smith was previously convicted on five counts in connection with the abuse and death of Zymere Perkins.

Zymere died on Sept. 26, 2016 after months of abuse. According to prosecutors, on the day of his death, Zymere was beaten by Smith with a broomstick before being hung over the back of a door by his shirt, according to a criminal complaint obtained by NBC 4 at the time.

In January 2020, Smith was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-and second-degree manslaughter and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, according to Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

"The death of Zymere Perkins was an unthinkable tragedy that sent shockwaves through the city and inspired a reckoning with how our social services system works to protect New York's most vulnerable," District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement after the guilty verdict. "Zymere was an innocent and helpless 6-year-old boy who suffered unconscionable, ongoing violence at the hands of Rysheim Smith. Now, a Manhattan jury has rightly held the defendant accountable for this horrific murder."

According to a state-ordered investigation into the handling of Zymere's death, the city's Administration of Children and Family Services had been aware of the boy's troubled home life from five incidents handled by the agency beginning in 2010. Three ACS workers were fired in the months after the boy's death, with Mayor Bill de Blasio lamenting "a troubling series of lapses and missed opportunities in ACS's failed effort to protect Zymere Perkins."

In 2010, Zymere's mother, Geraldine Perkins, and Smith were investigated for allegedly using drugs and in later years often allegedly used corporal punishment to discipline Zymere.

Rysheim Smith https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=991831870924434&set=pb.100002928907295.-2207520000.1481754499.&type=3&theater
Rysheim Smith

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During Smith's trial, Perkins testified against Smith and admitted to repeatedly abusing her son using a belt.

Perkins told the jury she was kicked out of her own grandmother's home for beating her son and was forced to live in homeless shelters. Prior to her testimony, the mother pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in connection with her son's death, which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner as a result of "Fatal Child Abuse Syndrome."

geraldine-perkins
Credit: Facebook

Zymere's former kindergarten teacher, Josefina Gutierrez, also testified during the trial. She told the jury that she stopped calling the boy's home to report misbehavior because she was afraid it would lead to beatings.

Gutierrez recalled one day when Smith suggested she mention his name to Zymere anytime he misbehaved. When she followed his suggestion, a look of terror in Zymere's eye made her never want to call his home again.

"I was afraid that every time I complained, [his mother] got upset and that was the reason that he came back with bruises," Gutierrez told the jury.

Smith was originally scheduled to be sentenced in March 2020, but sentencing was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to http://www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.