Demond's arms pinned, girl says

The woman charged with beating 4-year-old Demond Reed to death asked her own young children to hold the boy down.

When 4-year-old Demond Reed soiled his pants last week, his purported caretaker, Carla Poole, began to beat him, ordering her 4- and 6-year-old sons to hold down his arms.

Demond had a seizure and vomited, but Poole, the 37-year-old cousin of Demond's father in whose care the little boy had been left, was too afraid to call 911.

He would soon die.

Poole left his cold body on a bed for two days before stuffing it into a black plastic garbage bag and hiding it in a cluttered closet in her north Minneapolis duplex, according to murder charges filed Tuesday.

An autopsy showed massive injuries: multiple bruises over Demond's body, puncture wounds and bite marks on his stomach, broken ribs and an injury associated with an object being forced into his mouth, the court document said.

Poole's 11-year-old daughter, who witnessed the beating, told police that it looked like Demond's face was pushed in.

"The children just couldn't bear to see him like that," said Charmon Brown, Demond's grandmother, who traveled from Chicago to Minneapolis last week after Demond was reported missing. "Then she told them to make up stories about what happened to him."

Neither Hennepin County attorney Michael Freeman nor Police Chief Tim Dolan was able to provide any explanation or possible motive for the fatal beating. Dolan said the year's first homicide in Minneapolis "couldn't have been any tougher."

Police found Demond's body early Sunday in Poole's duplex at 3118 Morgan Av. N. Four days earlier, Poole, 37, had told police that a family acquaintance named Shawna took the boy. She had also ordered her 11-year-old daughter to call relatives and say Demond was missing, the police document said.

Investigators were unable to verify her story about Demond being taken by a woman named Shawna. Police with cadaver dogs searched the house on Friday but found no evidence of the boy. Lt. Amelia Huffman, head of the Minneapolis homicide unit, said the presence of numerous bags in the house hampered the search.

Officers also conducted an extensive home-to-home search in the neighborhood, Dolan said.

On Saturday, Poole's 11-year-old daughter told police about the beating, the court document said, and police found Demond's body after a late-night search.

Poole's daughter told police that when Demond stopped breathing, Poole tried to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But when the girl listened at his chest, she said, she did not hear a heartbeat.

The next morning, the boy was "frozen" and not breathing, the girl said, according to the document.

Poole's fingerprints were found on the garbage bag that held Demond's body, and she told police she killed the boy, Huffman said.

Poole's four children, ages 4 to 11, are in protective custody. Freeman said the county will take action to have her parental rights removed permanently.

"The fact that three of these children witnessed or had to take part in Demond's death only compounds the tragedy," Freeman said. "I can't imagine how the children feel about all this."

Despite the challenge of working with such young witnesses, Freeman said he plans to take the case to a grand jury for first-degree murder charges.

Demond had come to Minneapolis from Chicago with his father, Tony L. Reed, 21, to visit relatives. The boy stayed with Poole from January until he was reported missing Feb. 6, the document said.

"The people taking caring of Demond weren't strangers to Reed," Huffman said.

Brown, Demond's grandmother, said he spent most of January with his father and grandfather, staying over at the homes of relatives to play with young cousins.

Poole asked to take care of Demond after Reed was pulled over in downtown Minneapolis about 5:15 a.m. Jan. 21, Brown said. He had a felony warrant for his arrest, and officers found copper piping in his car.

Reed was in jail until a probation violation hearing a week later. He then was sent to the county workhouse until Feb. 8. The violation was related to a felony drug charge in Minneapolis from July.

In 2006, Poole was a target of a police investigation after a baby in her care ended up burned and with broken bones, but no charges were filed because other adults were present and police could not determine who hurt the baby, police have said.

On Tuesday, Freeman said authorities have no indication any of her own children have been abused.

Poole's criminal history shows several drug convictions from when she lived in Chicago in the 1990s. Huffman said it didn't appear any drugs were in her system when she allegedly beat Demond.

"But an incident like a child soiling itself can trigger a violent reaction," said Huffman, who was a child abuse investigator. "We've seen this in other abuse cases."

Brown said if the family had known about Poole's drug use, they would never have left Demond in her care.

A memorial service will be held in Minneapolis and another service in Chicago, she said.

What Brown said she will miss the most is Demond, her only grandchild, singing "Nana Frenchy's favorite song: 'Na Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye.'"

"Because I'm a believer, I have to go with the words of God," she said. "God says to forgive, but I will never forget the hurt and pain she brought to me."

dchanen@startribune.com 612-673-4465 raolson@startribune.com 612-673-1747

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