The caretaker of a 2-year-old boy whose emaciated and battered remains were found abandoned in a West Oak Lane apartment in 2017 has been sentenced to at least 23½ years in prison.
Jedayah Nesmith, 27, was sentenced this month after pleading guilty to third-degree murder and related charges for killing Azim Jones-Fearon, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Monday.
Krasner highlighted the case at his weekly news conference, saying it “speaks to some of the terrible concerns that we have for infants and for children who may be in danger of child abuse.”
The pandemic heightened concerns about the abuse or neglect of children, particularly because the shutdown of schools and child-care facilities meant teachers and other adults had fewer opportunities to identify and act on signs of it.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services said it had not yet finalized its latest report that would provide data about child abuse across the state. But the city agencies that monitor children and families said they have still fielded about 75 calls a day to a hotline in the first three quarters of the fiscal year — although that’s a decrease compared with the same time last year.
In Nesmith’s case, prosecutors say she took custody of the boy in February 2017 while dating his mother, then starved him, denied him water, and beat him. She ultimately abandoned him inside her apartment for at least several weeks, according to Assistant District Attorney Nora Nienhagen Greenberg.
Azim’s injuries — which included a brain hemorrhage — were so extensive the Medical Examiner’s Office had difficulty determining a cause of death. Antifreeze was also found in his system, prosecutors said.
Nesmith was arrested not long after she tried to pay a man $1,000 to dispose of Azim’s remains. Fearing he would be blamed for the killing, that man streamed his visit to the apartment on Facebook Live, and ultimately notified police.
Nienhagen Greenberg said neither the man nor the toddler’s mother was charged in his death. Prosecutors said Nesmith had lied about Azim’s whereabouts, claiming he was staying with her mother in the Poconos.
Nesmith’s attorney declined to comment Monday.
Krasner encouraged anyone who suspects child abuse to call the Department of Human Services. The hotline is 215-683-6100.