Physical and sexual abuse against children is a heartbreaking reality worldwide. In the United States alone, 1,850 children die each year from some form of child abuse. Many factors contribute to child abuse, including poverty, alcohol, and drugs. While all child abuse is horrific, the particular cases listed here caused major shock and outrage throughout their communities and the world after the children brutally died at the hands of those who were supposed to love and protect them.
10. Peter Connelly a.k.a Baby P
On August 3, 2007, 17-month-old Peter Connelly was found unresponsive in his cot. All attempts to resuscitate him failed and he passed away. From birth, Peter was subjected to violence. When his mother, Tracey Connelly began a relationship with Steven Barker, Peter endured regular beatings that resulted in hospital visits and the involvement of Haringey Children’s Services.
In June 2007, Barker’s brother, Jason Owen and his 15-year-old girlfriend, moved in with the young couple. The beatings continued, often with Owen joining in. Peter suffered a broken back, broken ribs, pulled-out fingernails and cut-off fingertips over an eight-month period.
Haringey Children Services was publicly criticized for failing to protect and save Peter’s life. Haringey Council fired several caseworkers involved in Peter’s case. In May 2009, a jury convicted Barker of raping a two-year-old girl, and he was sentenced to life in prison. He received an additional 12-year term for causing Peter’s death.
Connelly was sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison for her role in Peter’s death. She was released in 2013. Owen received the same except with a minimum of three years in prison. He was released in August 2011, but returned in 2013 for breaching conditions of his release.
Note: For a long time after his death, Peter’s name was kept hidden from public, and he was simply known as Baby P.
9. Liam Fee
On March 22, 2014, emergency personnel found two-year-old Liam Fee dead in his bedroom at his family home in Scotland. Doctors found over 30 injuries on Liam, including a ruptured heart, from repeated blows to his body.
Police arrested Rachel and Nyomi Fee for Liam’s murder. Rachel is Liam’s mother, who took her partner Fee’s last name. The couple did not just abuse Liam; they also abused two other little boys and locked all three of them in a homemade cage, forcing them to eat their own vomit.
Nyomi actually accused one boy of killing Liam and told doctors Liam was self-harming to cover up the abuse.
The abuse of the boys occurred between January 12, 2012 and March 22, 2014. At some point, Liam’s social worker went on vacation, and the boy dropped off the social services radar.
In July 2016, a judge sentence Rachel and Nyomi Fee to life in prison. They must serve at least 23 and a half years and 24 years minimum, respectively.
In September 2016, Lesley Bate, Liam’s social worker, was found guilty of 12 charges of misconduct relating to 15 children.
8. Kelsey Smith-Briggs
Two-year-old Kelsey Smith-Briggs died on October 11, 2005 from blunt force trauma to the stomach. According to court testimony, the abuse started several months prior to death. Her injuries included two broken legs, a broken collar bone, sexual assault, and numerous bruises. Oklahoma Department of Human Services (ODHS) took custody of Kelsey in April 2005. However, by June of that year she was back living with her mother, Raye Dawn Smith and Kelsey’s stepfather, Michael Lee Porter.
Judge Craig Key returned her to her mother against the advice of ODHS
Police arrested Porter and charged him with sexual abuse and murder. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of enabling child abuse. A judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
Raye Dawn Smith was convicted of enabling child abuse and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Under Oklahoma law, she must serve 85 percent of her sentence to be eligible for parole. Both Smith and Porter blame the other for Kelsey’s murder. It remains unknown who actually killed Kelsey.
Smith maintains innocence in her daughter’s death. Her request for a new trial was denied in May 2017.
The Kelsey Smith-Briggs Child Protection Reform Act passed in March 2006. It changed how ODHS and the courts handle child abuse cases. In 2009, Kelsey’s father, Lane Briggs filed and won a wrongful death lawsuit against ODHS and the state of Oklahoma.
7. Ngatikaura Ngati
That all changed in November 2005, shortly after his third birthday when Ngati’s biological mother, Maine Ngati, a cousin to Kura Kaufusi, wanted her son back. The court granted Maine custody, and Ngati moved in with her, his stepfather Teusila Fa’asisila, and four siblings.
Within three short months, Ngati was dead.
Autopsy pictures released to the public caused immediate outrage. It was clear from the photos the extent of his injuries; over 50 bruises covered his body. Ngati was severely abused from the moment he lived with Maine. On the day he died, he received two severe beatings, one from her, and another from his stepfather. When police arrived, they found Ngati’s blood on a baseball bat, ceiling, walls, and floor.
Police charged Maine and Fa’asisila with murder. However, a jury acquitted them of murder due to lack of evidence but found them guilty of manslaughter. They were each sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. An email petition containing the autopsy photos demanded longer sentences for child abusers.
6. Baby Falak
A teenage girl brought an injured toddler to a hospital in India on January 12, 2012. Doctors examined the two-year-old girl and discovered numerous injuries. She had burns on her chest from a hot iron and bite marks on her face. Her head had been smashed into a wall several times.
Medical staff failed to locate the child’s parents, so nurses named her Baby Falak, which means “the sky”. Falak survived for three months in the hospital, but died from a heart attack on March 15.
The teenager claimed the child as hers and said the child fell out of her bed. This was not true. The police tracked Falak’s real mother, Munni, to Rajasthan. She told authorities how she struggled to care for Falak and her other children after her husband left them. This caused her great stress. It also caught the attention of a gang of sex traffickers who lured Munni to Delhi for prostitution. She refused to prostitute herself, so the gang arranged her marriage to a man in Rajasthan and convinced Munni to hand her children over to them. They passed Falak to several people, all known to the sex traffickers, before she landed in the teenager’s care.
Munni mourned the death of her child and had Falak cremated.
5. Baby Hope
On July 23 1991, authorities found a blue cooler in a wooded area near Manhattan, New York. Inside was a decomposed body wrapped in garbage bags. Rope and a Venetian blind cord bound the victim’s hands and feet. The victim was a girl. She weighed 28 pounds and was three to five years old. The autopsy showed she was tortured and raped. Cause of death was asphyxia.
Identifying the girl was almost impossible due to body decay. Police named her “Baby Hope”. Witnesses reported seeing an Hispanic man and woman carrying a cooler near where police found the body. A few months later, nude images of a young girl emerged in New Jersey. Police believed she was Baby Hope.
In 1993, police paid for a casket and buried Baby Hope in a local cemetery. For 22 years, her identity remained unknown.
In 2013, cops made a public plea, asking people to come forward with any information regarding Baby Hope. The plea worked. A woman said she might know the girl’s sister. That tip led police to Baby Hope’s relatives, her killer and the child’s identity. Baby Hope was actually four-year-old Anjelica Castillo. Anjelica’s mother did not report her missing in 1991 due to a language barrier; she did not speak English at the time.
Anjelica’s cousin, Conrado Juarez, confessed to raping and murdering her in October 2013. Juarez, along with his sister, disposed of Anjelica’s body.
4. Phoenix Sinclair
On June 11, 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Karl McKay beat to death his five-year-old stepdaughter, Phoenix Sinclair. McKay’s 12-year-old son witnessed the murder and told police his dad punched and kicked Phoenix for 15-20 minutes that day. McKay and Samantha Kematch, Phoenix’s mother, buried her in a shallow grave near a landfill.
The pair pretended Phoenix was alive and even tried passing off another girl as Phoenix to avoid suspicion. Police found Phoenix’s body nine months following her death. McKay’s son and his son’s mother called the authorities to report what happened to Phoenix.
Police discovered that McKay and Kematch starved Phoenix and shot her with a BB gun. They forced her to eat her own vomit, and made her sleep naked in a cold basement. McKay and Kematch were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Steve Sinclair, Phoenix’s father, had custody of Phoenix in 2003 until a caseworker removed the child from his care.
3. Natalee Skinner-Hurst
In 2014, Kelsey Newell-Skinner awoke one morning to find her two-month-old daughter, Natalie Skinner-Hurst severely injured in her crib. She claimed in a text message to her ex-boyfriend that she must have had a lot to drink the previous night because she had no recollection of hurting Natalee. The ex-boyfriend called Newell-Skinner’s mother who took the baby to the hospital.
Doctors discovered multiple skull and rib fractures as well as brain damage. Natalee had bite marks on her left thigh, a swollen left eye, and numerous bruises. Doctors declared her brain dead and she died four days later.
Natalie tested positive for marijuana at birth. A caseworker with Denver Human Services began an inquiry, but dropped it. Another caseworker assigned to Natalie’s case, Rotchana Madera lied about visits with Natalie and recommended closing a child abuse inquiry into the family.
Newell-Skinner was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Madera pleaded guilty to a felony charge of forgery and official misconduct. A judge sentenced her to two years of supervised probation.
2. Brianna Lopez
On July 19, 2002, Stephanie Lopez took her five-month-old baby, Brianna Lopez, to a New Mexico hospital. The infant was severely injured and doctors were unable to save her. Brianna passed away at 11:10 a.m.
It was obvious to the doctors that the infant was severely abused. An autopsy revealed the horrific truth behind what happened to Brianna. She had several human bite marks at different stages of healing. Multiple bruises covered her body and she had fractures of the skull, ribs, and legs.
She also suffered severe trauma to the vagina and anus that was consistent with rape.
Lopez, Brianna’s father Andy Walters, and Steven Lopez, Stephanie’s brother admitted to drinking beer on July 18. Stephanie drank three beers and went to bed. She claimed she did not see or hear anything going on with her baby.
Walters and Lopez admitted throwing Brianna in the air three times. Each time she hit the ceiling, they let her fall to the floor without catching her. Walters and Lopez also admitted to raping Brianna.
They are currently serving 63 years and 57 years in prison, respectively. In September 2016, the parole board released Stephanie Lopez from prison. She served 13 years out of a 27-year sentence.
1. Nia Glassie
Brothers Wiremu Curtis and Michael Curtis watched Nia while her mother worked long hours at a fruit plant. The brothers, their cousin Michael Pearson and Michael Curtis’ girlfriend, Oriwa Kemp, each took part in abusing Nia.
Child witnesses testified that the adults forced Nia into a dryer and turned it on. They kept her in the dryer until her nose bled. Furthermore, they kicked, punched, and spit on the toddler. Michael Curtis raised her to the ceiling and dropped her to the floor. They placed her on an outdoor spinning clothes rack until she fell to the ground. Nia died from her injuries.
Police charged the brothers with murder, and Pearson and Kemp with manslaughter. Lisa Kuku, Nia’s mother and girlfriend of Wiremu Curtis, was charged with two counts of manslaughter. She knew of the abuse and failed to report it nor did she seek medical help for her daughter.
The judge sentenced the brothers to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 and a half years. The jury found Pearson and Kemp not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of child cruelty. The judge sentenced each to one to three years in prison. The judge sentenced Kuku to nine years behind bars.
In February 2017, Kuku was released from prison.
Oriwa Kemp, now 27, had one child at the time of Nia’s death. That child was removed form her care. Since then, she had three more children – all removed from her care after birth – and is pregnant again. She was 19 when she was sentenced for her role in Nia’s death. Kemp was eventually released from prison but was recalled to prison in 2016 after she breached the conditions of her parole.