Khalil Wimes and Abdifatah Mohamud: Two Little Victims of One Big Crime, Child Abuse
5/7/2012 11:54 AM
“Khalil was dead from head trauma March 19 when his parents, Tina Cuffie, 44, and Floyd Wimes [aka Latiff Hadi], 48, brought him to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His corpse weighed only 29 pounds and bore a sea of scars across his face and the rest of his body, according to police reports. Authorities believe Khalil suffered beatings at the hands of his parents for as long as two years, and he was photographed with obvious scarring at the same time the social worker was visiting him and his siblings in 2011.” ─ Reports Philadelphia Inquirer.
18 month old Khalil
with his foster parents“In fact, Khalil had spent the final months of his life beaten, bone thin, desperately ill, and out of school …” “During these months, Khalil's parents beat him regularly, with books, shoes, extension cords, and a belt, according to interviews with two adult sisters. Three large welts on his forehead are visible in an October 2011 family photograph.”
“Wimes and Cuffie often withheld food from Khalil as punishment for what they deemed to be misbehavior, sometimes not feeding him until dinner time, or sending him to bed without dinner, the siblings said…
In August 2011, Khalil threw up twice at a birthday party in Southwest Philadelphia for Cuffie's father, Wesley Cuffie Sr. In a photograph from the party, Khalil looks frail and sick.
Abused and scarred by
his biological parentsKhalil didn't mingle with the other children that day, Wesley Cuffie Sr. said. "He just sat there on the step like a little tin soldier," Cuffie Sr. said.
None of Cuffie's relatives who were at the party called authorities about the boy's condition.”
These are just few heartbreaking paragraphs from a long report by Reporter Mike Newall of the Inquirer. This was the tragic, abused life of little Khalil whose entire family kept their eyes closed and did not report the abuse to the authorities. More disturbing is the fact that the authorities already failed him by returning him to his disqualified, abusive, addicted parents in the first place. He had a foster mother (a distant cousin) who took care of him for the first three years of his life and was eager to take him back. Nobody but the death came to rescue this little angel.
“On the night of April 17, Ali Mohamad Mohamud tied up his stepson Abdifatah Mohamud, stuffed a sock in his mouth, covered it with duct tape and then beat the boy to death, Buffalo, N.Y.,” police told ABC News affiliate WKBW.
Abdifatah Mahamoud“An autopsy showed that the fifth grader died after being hit more than 70 times with a rolling pin.” --- ABC News.
The brutality of this stepfather is beyond any rationale. More disturbing is the fact that little Abdifatah tried to escape this man by calling 911, but unfortunately, as the Buffalo News correctly pointed out in its editorial The system failed Abdifatah. In spite of police reports to the Erie County Child Protective Services, CPS never took measures to remove him from this abusive household. Sadly, this little boy also could not escape his death.
The lame excuse for this brutal beating was that his grades were dropping, whereas his Principal Kevin Eberle says that “Academically, he was just a great kid in the classroom. His grades were great.” Dad claims that he was only disciplining him. What kind of disciplining was this? I wish somebody would discipline this brutal man with a punishment like this as well.
We as a community seriously need to do something about such parents who torture their kids in all sorts of ways in the name of discipline. Police and children services come later. Where are family members, neighbors and community members? Why is there nobody to stop them? This does not happen in just one night. Instead, such deadly incidents happen after several incidents of lesser severity. In this case, it is apparent that nobody stopped these brutal people at all.
As I look into the bright beautiful eyes and at the beautiful smile of Abdifatah, I cannot believe he is not alive anymore. As I look at the scarred and battered face of Khalil, I can’t believe nobody noticed or cared to help this poor little guy. Being a mother of three children, my heart goes out to their mothers.
Khalil’s foster mother, Alicia Nixon, is mourning her son’s murder. Her hands were tied by laws and for the last three years she had been knocking on agencies’ doors in her attempt to reunite her with him.
Abdifatah’s mother, Shukri Bile, is also shocked. Her son is dead and her husband has been arrested on a second degree murder charges. May Allah grant her with patience to deal with this shocking loss, amen.
I am wondering as well about her options prior to this tragic incident. Under what circumstances would a mother live in a household where her child is being abused continuously?
There are two possible answers to this question: Either the mother herself is a victim of domestic violence or she is an equal partner in the abuse like Khalil’s mother. In both cases, the root problem is the existence, acceptance and ignorance of different types of family violence within a community.
My heart also goes out to Abdifatah’s neighbor who helped his stepdad in catching him when Abdifatah was trying to run away from him. According to the neighbor, she was the one who forcibly convinced Abdifatah to go with his dad by telling him that nothing was going to happen. Based on her interview, she is now regretful. This reminds me of another sister I know, who forced her sister to go back to her abusive husband only to find her dead the next morning. That sister has also been sorry for several years and it still hurts.
Often times we do a greater disservice, when we push back people into an abusive relationship and tell them to live by working it out. A sister in an abusive relationship or a child in the custody of an abusive parent needs more support and understanding than that. In fact, a child is more vulnerable and helpless than a grown up woman.
In reading Abdifatah’s story, I get puzzled. The boy himself called CPS for help. If they weren't going to remove him... and his mom wasn't going to leave... then, who could help? If the boy had gone to a local Imam or someone else, just like his neighbor, they might have also returned him back to his family. At least in my experience of many Muslim communities, our mosques and community members are simply not trained for situations like these. Parents’ rights and authority override the children’s rights and vulnerability more too often.
As Buffalo News questioned CPS and the Inquirer questioned Philadelphia's Department of Human Services (DHP), I would like to question the neighbors, the extended family, the friends and the community. What could have been done within the closer circles to save these little helpless boys? What can be done now to save other Khalils and Abdifatahs out there?
What is really needed is communities whose members are closer, where many people would have been aware of the child's situation and doing what they could to help, and also needed is awareness on the part of the community that one must take the claims of children of abuse seriously ...not just saying it is an internal family matter.
We need to be able to give our shoulder to a child in need. We need to keep our eyes and ears open for such vulnerable people around us. We need to investigate more deeply if we hear screams from a house, or see somebody running outside scared and frightened, or probably have more obvious signs of being beaten or abused in one way or the other. If something does not seem normal, we should not assume it as normal. The least we can do is report it to the authority and keep following up with them.
These poor people also need more actions to be taken by the community and faith organizations like mosques and churches. Workshops and programs about parenting, anger management, conflict resolution and similar do help people in improving their family lives and personal relationships. Programs about family law and related legal issues also help people in getting out of a situation and making a decision. And of course, stronger laws and their reinforcement against all types of family violence would help on top.
In short, the only positive thing that can emerge from these tragic episodes is that our community changes its attitude toward the issue of child abuse. Parents must start understanding and distinguishing between discipline and abuse. And the child protective agencies do their part more effectively. Project Sakinah is working to build the public will for change in the Muslim community. Please join our hands in saving other abused children in our communities.
For Khalil and Abdifatah, of course no more worries of being beaten for little things. Rest in peace little angels! Rest in Peace!