A 2-year-old boy who died Tuesday had been severely beaten and suffered internal injuries to his liver and spleen that authorities said likely occurred when he was “hit multiple times . . . or hit against a hard surface,” according to court papers filed in the case.
The new information about how the child, Aceyson Aizim Ahmad, was injured inside the Greenway apartments in Southeast Washington were revealed as his mother’s live-in boyfriend, James Embre, 24, appeared in D.C. Superior Court Thursday facing a charge of first-degree murder.
“The child’s injuries would have been extremely painful,” police wrote in a court document, and “immediately visible.”
As Embre was being led out of the courtroom, he yelled out to family and friends who had filled about two rows in the audience behind him. “Ya’ll know I didn’t do this, dawg. Ya’ll know I ain’t do it.”
A judge ordered Embre held until his next hearing May 24.
According to the arrest affidavit, Embre told police that he had picked Aceyson up at his day-care center about 6 p.m. Tuesday and noticed that he was sleepy. He said he fed the child a half-cup of water, changed the boy’s clothing and put him in his bed to sleep. He then said he went into an adjacent bedroom, talked with the child’s mother and played video games while smoking marijuana and drinking a cup of vodka, the affidavit says.
But the arrest affidavit says another juvenile reported to detectives that she saw Embre “punch the decedent multiple times” in a bedroom the two children shared. The girl said Embre punched her in the right leg and ordered her out of the room with a warning: “Don’t tell your mom that I’m in here.”
The incident occurred shortly before 8:20 p.m. in a third-floor apartment in the 3400 block of A Street SE. Police officers who were called there for an assault reported being met by Aceyson’s mother holding her unconscious child in her arms and screaming, “My son ain’t breathing. Take him to the hospital. He threw up. He ain’t breathing no more. Help him!”
About halfway through Embre’s initial court appearance, the defendant, standing next to his public defender and a U.S. marshal, began sobbing and bending at the waist. He said: “They took my son from me. They took my son. They took my boy.” Another marshal rolled a chair over to Embre and allowed him to sit down. Embre was not the boy’s biological father but was raising him while living with and dating the boy’s mother, authorities said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wright, a veteran homicide prosecutor who specializes in child death cases, told the judge the little boy lost about 500 milliliters of blood and bled internally into his stomach from a lacerated liver and an artery that supplies blood to the heart. Wright said that the boy had vomited blood before being rushed to the hospital and that he had bruises across his torso.
Wright said Embre “brutally beat and savagely hurt” the child.
Police said in the affidavit that Embre was seen carrying the unconscious boy out of the room.
Embre’s attorney, James King of the District’s Public Defender Service, argued there was no evidence linking Embre to the injuries. “There are no bruises to his hand. No blood on his shoes or clothes,” he said, although the medical examiner determined the boy bled internally.
King also questioned the credibility of the boy’s mother, a key witness in the case. King said the mother initially told authorities the boy fell out of bed, which she said caused the injuries. King also said that the mother had previously accused Embre of assaulting her. “They had their own problems,” King said.
“These allegations do not appear to make up the history of Mr. Embre. He has no prior violent offenses,” King said. “These allegations appear to be out of character for Mr. Embre.”
Aceyson was pronounced dead at 9:04 p.m. at Children’s National Medical Center, less than 45 minutes after police were first called to the house.