A Las Vegas mother accused of allowing her 7-year-old son to be beaten to death has pleaded guilty to child abuse charges and agreed to testify in the murder trial of the boy’s stepdad.
Dina Palmer, 28, last week agreed to plead guilty to two counts of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment with substantial bodily harm. In exchange, Clark County prosecutors agreed to drop a murder charge against her.
Her son, Roderick “RJ” Arrington, died in November 2012 after being hospitalized with a swollen brain and a body riddled with bruises, authorities said.
The day before he was hospitalized, Roundy Elementary School officials called a child welfare hotline with suspicions of abuse at the boy’s home. The second grader had extensive scarring and had trouble walking and sitting in class. He told school staff that his mother and stepfather beat him, but social workers never responded to the school.
Because the extent of RJ’s injuries might not have been visible at the time, the hotline worker who took the call had assigned a 24-hour response from Clark County Child Protective Services.
Earlier this year, the Clark County School District announced extensive revisions for how school employees report suspected child abuse.
The changes require staffers to report abuse to an administrator, counselor and nurse, who could check for injuries and help determine the level of abuse. Anyone who suspects abuse at a child’s home would be required to call police.
School officials have said the changes were not in response to RJ’s death.
On the night of RJ’s last beating, Palmer and her husband, Markiece Palmer, whipped him with a belt for lying about reading a Bible chapter the previous day, police said.
Prosecutors believe that Markiece Palmer was more culpable in RJ’s death and caused the fatal blow to his head.
Las Vegas police said Dina Palmer spanked RJ on other occasions, sometimes with a belt, a shoe or a paint brush.
Dina Palmer told police she was trying “to raise RJ so he wouldn’t become a problem for society.”
The mother checked on her son once the night before he died. When she tried to wake him in the morning, he was unconscious.
An autopsy showed 53 wounds and marks on RJ’s body, including welts that matched the shape of a belt buckle.
As part of her plea agreement, Dina Palmer was expected to testify at the November trial of Markiece Palmer, 36, who faces a murder charge and two counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm.
Dina Palmer faces up to 40 years in prison at a December sentencing.
Contact reporter David Ferrara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker.