Three-year-old Jeida Torres was beaten to death yesterday afternoon in the Brooklyn shelter where she lived with her mother, brother and mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend, 20-year-old Kelsey Smith, has been arrested in connection with the death. Jeida’s 5-year-old brother Andrew was also beaten, but his injuries are said to not be life-threatening, although he was hospitalized.
A 911 call was made to police on Saturday afternoon by a neighbor who reported hearing screams from inside the Cooper Street shelter in Brooklyn, an area commonly known as Bushwick. Upon their arrival police found the two injured children. Andrew was bruised, but Jeida was unconscious and unresponsive, with injuries to her head and body, apparently having been punched and choked. Both children were taken to the hospital. According to a Fire Department New York spokesman, the 3-year-old girl was in cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Jeida’s mother Kimberly Torres and her grandfather arrived home shortly after the 911 call was made.
The children had been left with Smith while their mother went to work. He reportedly became enraged when the girl had an accident in her pants. He was not at the Brooklyn shelter when police arrived, apparently having fled and left the injured children behind. He was eventually tracked down and taken into police custody just over the Queens border. Sources said Smith had tried to commit suicide by cutting himself. Smith has had multiple arrests for robbery and grand larceny dating back to 2008, as well as a gang assault charge and an arrest this year for criminal mischief.
Police revealed that it appeared that Andrew’s injuries were most likely inflicted before Saturday. A neighbor, Marilyn Cruz, said the afternoon was the culmination of two weeks of fighting and violence inside the shelter apartment, and that she had called the police about the continuing noise in the home, but got no response. However, a man who lives on the same floor with the Torres family told investigators that the family “seemed decent, happy, not sad or anything like that.”
According to the real estate site Apartable, the property at 38 Cooper Street in Brooklyn is a 9,030 square foot, four-story, multi-family home with 16 units. The building was built in 1904 and is owned by Madison Investors.
This is not the first killing of small children in the city this year. Four-year-old Myls Dobson died Jan. 8 after being starved and abused for three weeks while living with his father’s girlfriend. Two-year-old Kevasia Edward died on Feb. 4 after being found unconscious. Her mother is charged with murder. Earlier this year NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to remove 400 children from two homeless shelters that had been targeted because of reports of their poor conditions for the last 10 year. The shelter where Jeida was beaten and killed was not one of the locations targeted.
Children’s Services, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), and the New York Police Department (NYPD) are all investigating the death of the Brooklyn 3-year-old. The DHS issued a statement about the death that promised cooperation with the NYPD to “determine how this occurred.” No charges have yet been filed.
By Beth A. Balen