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thedrifter
06-28-07, 08:57 AM
Judge says siblings of beaten 4-year-old should live with father
Parents were serving in Iraq when mother's boyfriend killed child, police say

June 28, 2007
By Isaac Wolf Staff writer

The two Calumet City children whose youngest brother was beaten to death while their parents served in Iraq will spend the next month in their father's care in Columbus, Georgia, Judge Karen Shields ordered Wednesday.

While their father, Gary Smith, 27, served with the Marines in Iraq, the children's mother, LaVada Smith, 28, was also deployed to Iraq. She decided to leave their children with a live-in boyfriend, Donell Parker.

Police say Parker, 23, whipped and beat 4-year-old Cameron Smith over two days before alerting authorities to the dead boy on May 24.

Since Cameron's death, his 7-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother have been with LaVada Smith's parents in Chicago.

"It's in their best interests that at this time they be removed from the immediate environment," said Lester Barclay, an attorney representing the two children. "They'll have the chance to be children again for a little while."

On Tuesday, Parker pleaded not guilty to killing Cameron.

According to Barclay and lawyers for both LaVada and Gary Smith, the children are grieving.

Jeffery Leving, an attorney for Gary Smith, said the children are traumatized. "They're going to have tremendous guilt for the rest of their lives," he said.

LaVada Smith's lawyer, Barry Gordon, said the children are "doing as best they can under these circumstances."

"You certainly clam up under these circumstances," he said. "You become very introverted."

This is not the first court battle for custody of the Smith children. Gary Smith lost custody of his kids on July 17, 2003, in a case brought by his wife, according to California court records.

Leving could not say why LaVada Smith filed that custody case but said it happened while Gary Smith was serving in Kosovo.

Shields will decide on the permanent custody of the children on July 27.

Leving said he was confident Gary Smith would get permanent custody, saying that LaVada Smith's decision to leave the children with a man that killed one of them illustrates her poor judgment.

But Gordon responded by saying that LaVada Smith has "average intelligence," and could not have reasonably foreseen that Parker would "snap."

Isaac Wolf may be reached at
iwolf@dailysouthtown.com
or (70 633-5973.

Ellie