Man describes shaking that led to 7-year-old RJ’s death

Markiece Palmer beat the boy until he squirmed and dropped to the floor.

As 7-year-old Roderick “RJ” Arrington rose with fists clenched, he lunged at the man who prosecutors said had been abusing him for more than two months.

Palmer grabbed the shoulders of his stepson and started to shake him.

“RJ, what is wrong with you?” Palmer said in a video re-enactment of the incident played for jurors in his murder trial Thursday. “What is wrong with you? You don’t fight your daddy. You don’t fight daddy.”

RJ would be dead within two days.

Dina Palmer, the boy’s mother, who participated in the intense beatings of the boy, testified earlier this week that RJ’s head snapped back as he was being shaken and hit his bedroom wall.

In the roughly 12-minute video captured at University Medical Center while doctors tried to save RJ’s life, investigators gave Markiece Palmer a doll to demonstrate how he punished the boy.

Palmer stared into the face of the doll, shaking it for several seconds.

“When you lie, then there are consequences,” he said.

Palmer said that during the final beating RJ, who stood about 4½ feet tall and weighed 71 pounds, turned and “physically attacked me.”

In court, the 36-year-old Palmer sat still and upright, staring straight ahead at a monitor on the defense table, watching himself illustrate the abuse that prosecutors say led to RJ’s death. He did not take the stand.

Palmer would have the boy stand against a wall with his arms stretched out or bend over and touch his toes.

At one point, Palmer recounts RJ told him, “I hate you. I don’t want to be here.

“When you spank me, I don’t listen to you. Because I’m mad, I’m angry. Because I don’t like to get spanked.”

The boy had only known his mother’s husband for a couple months. RJ’s mother moved to California to marry the man in November 2011, while RJ stayed with his father and other relatives.

By the latter half of 2012, the couple had moved to Las Vegas. RJ came to live with them in September 2012 and they found a place in the central valley.

A neighbor told Roundy Elementary school workers the second-grader had trouble walking and sitting on Nov. 28, 2012. She also called Clark County Child Protective Services with her suspicions.

A school counselor called a child welfare hotline with suspicions of abuse at the boy’s home, but social workers did not immediately respond to the school.

Because school employees did not observe the extent of RJ’s injuries, the hotline worker who took the call had assigned a 24-hour response from Clark County Child Protective Services. RJ died on Nov. 30, 2012.

Yuluanda Greenberry, a CPS investigator assigned to RJ’s case, testified Tuesday that the calls “should have been handled differently.”

When he died, RJ’s body was riddled with welts, bruises and cuts on his arms, abdomen, back, legs, thighs and buttocks. The boy’s brain was swollen from having been slammed against the wall.

After playing the video, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Staudaher distributed to jurors a cutout of the drywall with a round crack.

Markiece Palmer told investigators that he wanted to teach the boy a lesson. “What happens when he’s 12? What happens when he’s 15?” Palmer said. “I have a situation in my house that’s out of control.”

In September, Dina Palmer pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm, and agreed to testify at her husband’s trial.

RJ would squirm, but no matter how hard they hit him or what they used — belt, coaxial cable, wooden brush, broom stick — he wouldn’t cry.

Dina Palmer told jurors Thursday that she believed her husband manipulated her and convinced her that beating her child was the right thing to do, according to the Bible.

She recalled one moment, shortly before RJ’s death, when she was reluctant to strike the boy after Markiece Palmer said he was tired of whipping RJ and instructed her to continue.

She still struck the boy, she said, but not as hard as she had in the past.

“That’s not going to make him cry,” her husband said, and grabbed a broomstick.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker

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