Autopsy reports blows to stomach as cause
East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies were called three times in the past two years to investigate complaints about the welfare of the children of a couple arrested Friday in the murder of their 8-year-old son, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said.
Meanwhile, state child protection officials confirmed late Friday they had an open case involving the family of Xzayvion Riley, who died Tuesday from complications he suffered after being hit in the stomach.
The boy’s parents — Michael Robertson, 46, 11480 Glenda Drive, and Lavaughn Riley, 32, 8711 Coy Ave. — were booked into Parish Prison on Friday on one count each of first-degree murder.
Prior to their arrest and their son’s death, deputies had been contacted about the welfare of their children on three occasions — by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, a baby sitter and a family member of the children, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
Trey Williams, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, said the agency “had an open and active case with the family” but said he could not specify when the case was opened.
He said the coroner’s ruling that the death was a result of abuse by a caretaker allowed his agency to acknowledge its involvement with the family.
Williams said in an email that the state agency had provided services that included “intensive home based services, protective child care, coordination with community resources, as well as involvement with the courts.”
Williams said the department is conducting an internal case review, which is standard procedure, and is continuing to work with law enforcement in their investigation. He confirmed that Xzayvion’s siblings are currently in the care of the state.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services contacted the Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 20, 2010, in reference to cruelty to a juvenile by Robertson, Hicks said, declining to elaborate on the allegation. The deputy found no probable cause to make an arrest, she said.
A baby sitter called the Sheriff’s Office on July 30, about the welfare of Robertson and Riley’s children at 8231 Skysail Ave., Hicks said.
The deputy went to the home, talked to Robertson and the children and determined they were in “good health and spirits,” Hicks said. The baby sitter was told to call back if she had any additional information to report.
Two months later, on Sept. 10, a family member of the children called the Sheriff’s Office and reported that the children of Robertson and Riley had been left home alone, Hicks said. She said the Sheriff’s Office could not disclose information about the number and age of the children.
Riley was contacted at work and told deputies that Robertson was supposed to be at home with the children, Hicks said. The mother left work and came home to take care of them, Hicks said.
Deputies contacted the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, Hicks said.
On Tuesday, Deputies were called to Riley’s Coy Avenue apartment in reference to Xzayvion, who was unresponsive, Hicks said.
Paramedics took the boy to Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, Hicks said. Hospital medical staff examining the boy found 56 bruises, cuts and abrasions on the child, including an adult-size bite mark on his stomach, she said.
The staff told deputies they had previously treated Xzayvion for broken bones, bruises and abrasions, an affidavit of probable cause says. The staff also said they suspected physical abuse.
Kelly Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for Our Lady of the Lake, said privacy laws do not allow her to say whether or not Xzayvion was a patient at the hospital.
But, she said, if caregivers notice or suspect any abuse of a child or an adult, they are required by law to notify the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
Riley admitted to deputies that she beat her son and caused bruises on his back, shoulder blade and buttocks, the affidavit says.
Riley also said the victim’s father, Robertson, beat the child and caused the bruises and scratches on the victim’s neck, Hick said.
Riley told authorities she saw Robertson beat her son and that she did not try to stop him. On one occasion, Riley said, she heard what sounded like Robertson possibly throwing the boy against the wall, Hicks said.
The victim’s 10-year-old sibling told deputies that Robertson beat the child off and on with his fist from noon Monday until Monday evening, the affidavit says.
The sibling also said that Xzayvion complained of stomach pains and vomited throughout the night on Monday and was too weak to get out of bed Tuesday, Hicks said.
The sibling said she recently saw Robertson bite her brother’s stomach and that Robertson regularly bit Xzayvion as a form of discipline, Hicks said.
Robertson denied any involvement in his son’s injuries, Hicks said. The father claimed he first noticed the bite mark on his son’s stomach while paramedics were treating the child Tuesday, the affidavit says.
Robertson and Riley were initially booked on a count of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile following the death of their son, Hicks said.
The counts were changed to first-degree murder Friday after Clark deemed Xzayvion’s death a homicide.
Preliminary results of an autopsy done Friday show the boy died of “overwhelming infection,” caused by a ruptured bowel, Clark said. The ruptured bowel was caused by blunt force trauma to Xzayvion’s abdomen, he said.
The autopsy also showed 60 external signs of recent and old trauma, including abrasions, bruises and a human bite mark, Clark said. The child also had a broken femur that had been surgically corrected, he said.
A final autopsy report will be issued once a cell examination of the boy’s tissue has been completed and the results of toxicology tests have been reviewed, Clark said.
Even though the autopsy showed clear signs of abuse, the owner of Pierson’s Brilliant Minds Learning Academy, where Xzayvion had attended since Easter, said she never saw them.
Evelyn Pierson said Xzayvion was a good child, who smiled a lot and liked to give hugs. She said the boy’s mother seemed like a good mother but that Riley wasn’t comfortable with Robertson.
Pierson, who organized a balloon release in Xzayvion’s memory on Friday, said she only saw Robertson twice and didn’t know anything about him.
East Baton Rouge Parish School System spokesman Chris Trahan said Xzayvion attended Highland Elementary and completed first grade this year. The child attended kindergarten at the school last year, he said.
Citing state law, Trahan said he could not say whether school staff ever suspected or reported any abuse to the child.
Williams, the spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, noted that Louisiana residents are required by law to report incidents of suspected child abuse.
“The public’s role is to report suspicious incidents,” he said. “Our role is to investigate them and determine whether abuse or neglect is occurring.”
To report abuse, call (855) 4-LAKIDS.
Advocate staff writer
Naomi Martin contributed to this report.