published Friday, December 30th, 2011

Chattanooga child abuse arrests rise in 2011

  • photo
    Harriet Tubman residents Tia Fortson, left, and Jodi Scott talk near a memorial set up for 4-year-old TyReke Evans who died from injuries related to a beating Monday.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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ABUSE HOTLINE


To report child abuse, call 1-877-542-2873.

Child abuse arrests jumped by 63 percent this year for the Chattanooga Police Department, compared to 2010 statistics.

To date, Chattanooga police have made 85 child abuse arrests. That's up from 52 such arrests in 2010.

The department has a unit that handles referrals from the state Department of Children's Services, tips made through the community or officer observation.

In the past year, the DCS has investigated 169,000 complaints of child abuse in Tennessee.

The figures increased by one last week with the death of 4-year-old Tyre'ke Evans, who died Dec. 19 of "multiple blunt force trauma," according to the Hamilton County medical examiner.

His mother, Patricia Brewer, 23, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Coleman, 21, each has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated child abuse.

The boy had broken ribs, brain swelling, lacerated internal organs and internal bleeding. He was covered in abrasions and bruises when his limp body was brought to the emergency room at Erlanger, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Tyre'ke's 3-year-old brother, Donamiche Brewer, also was severely beaten that night. Doctors found liver damage and bruises and abrasions covering his body. He was released last week from the Children's Hospital at Erlanger, police said.

Tyre'ke's death is the only suspected child abuse death the city investigated this year, said Chattanooga Police Assistant Chief Tim Carroll.

In many cases, the child's caretaker is the abuser, Carroll said.

"Parents are supposed to intervene when children come in harm's way," he said.

While many have expressed sadness and shock at Tyre'ke's death, it's not a new story for this community.

In 2003, officers investigated seven domestic violence-related deaths and two child abuse deaths, Carroll recalled.

The recent news of Tyre'ke jogged memories of 5-year-old Nathaniel Upshaw, beaten and raped by his mother's boyfriend, Nicholas Todd Hilt, in 2003. Nathaniel was attacked Jan. 6 and died Jan. 8.

Hilt told the court he beat the child because Nathaniel was disruptive when he was trying to study, according to newspaper archives.

"I kept slamming him into the wall. I told him to get up, and when he got up I pushed him to the ground," Hilt said.

Hilt was sentenced to life in prison.

Altreasa Upshaw, Nathaniel's mother, was arrested for failing to call police until the next day. She was placed on probation for 10 years.

Charlotte Boatwright, chairwoman of the Domestic Violence Coalition of Greater Chattanooga, said that, despite some progress toward making child abuse unacceptable, there's still a long way to go.

"People can kill their children and get away with it," she said.

Many people who abuse were themselves abused, she said, so the behavior passes from one generation to the next.

"If you don't know you have to change that behavior, you aren't going to change. We need to motivate people to change." she said.

Boatwright said in many cases abusers don't limit themselves to a single target.

In more than 70 percent of adult domestic violence cases, children in the household also were physically abused, Boatwright said. In most of those cases, the children were younger than 6.

"The child is helpless. The child is without a voice," Boatwright said. "Unless somebody stands up and speaks for the child, nothing is going to be done about it."

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