Man arrested in beating death of toddler; second child abuse arrest in as many days

BELLE GLADE -- For the second time in as many days, a young man has been arrested in the beating death of his girlfriend's baby.

Antion Denard Lawrence, 23, of Pahokee, has been charged with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse for killing a 2-year-old.

An autopsy showed the baby, who was not identified, suffered from a long list of injuries including a torn liver, wounded sternum, torn small bowel intestine, hemorrhage to the adrenal gland, deep bruising to the neck, bruises on forehead, bruises on abdomen, bruises on back, scrapes on the penis and scrotum, and several other injuries in various stages of heal ling.

Investigators said the baby was found unresponsive in his home December 27 after two days of vomiting. He was taken to Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade, where he couldn't be revived.

The baby's mother, Crystal Banks, told Sheriff's deputies she didn't know why she let the beatings happen, but said on one occasion Lawrence left marks on the baby and she told him not to hit him anymore. Banks told investigators her boyfriend beat her baby for not eating, not going to sleep or not moving fast enough.

She said she thought Lawrence was jealous of the baby.

"He (the baby) always wanna be up under me," the arrest report said.

Lawrence told investigators he hit the baby with a belt, but not his hands.

"I don't beat him, I tap him on the butt every now and then with a belt or something but fist wise or pickin up something heavy, no," he said, according to an arrest report. Lawrence said the last time the baby had "a whoopin" was "3 or 4 days ago before Christmas when he was hollerin and throwin things around," according to the arrest report.

The baby's older brother told investigators that he had seen Lawrence hit the baby for wetting the bed. He also said Lawrence hit other children in the household with a belt.

Yesterday, a 19-year-old man Boca Raton man was arrested for beating his girlfriend's 12-month-old baby to death. Carlos Rivera remains in jail today.

The arrests were made the same week a report from the State Child Abuse Death Review Committee showed deaths from child abuse increased along with unemployment.