Brother: Starved Philadelphia boy forced to run laps

PHILADELPHIA - September 25, 2013

Family members who raised some of Tina Cuffie's 10 other children sobbed as they heard about Khalil Wimes' childhood. Khalil spent his first three years in foster care with a relative and was gradually reunited with his birthparents, Cuffie and Latiff Hadi, also known as Floyd Wimes.

He weighed less than 30 pounds when he died in March 2012.

"So she's yelling at him to run up and down the hallway the day before he died?" First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann asked the oldest brother, Aaron Cuffie.

Cuffie, 28, nodded, and said his brother sometimes collapsed.

"She would help him back up and make him do it again," he said.

Khalil is one of a string of Philadelphia children to die of starvation and abuse in recent years, often on the city's watch.

Danieal Kelly, who had cerebral palsy, weighed 42 pounds when she died at age 14 in in 2006. More than 10 people were convicted in her death, including social workers and her parents.

Two-month-old Quasir Alexander weighed just over 4 pounds when he died in 2010 at a homeless shelter, where his mother and her six children received many social services. She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

And just this month, a 3-year-old disabled girl died weighing just 11 pounds, more than a year after she had last seen a doctor. Her parents, Carlos Rivera and Carmen Ramirez, were due in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing. The hearing was rescheduled for Dec. 3 but not before a prosecutor announced plans to pursue a first-degree murder charge against the father.

More than 1,500 U.S. children die from abuse or neglect each year, an unknown number of them from starvation.

"It's harder than we thought it would be (to watch the trial). We knew what happened. We didn't know the particulars," said Khalil's aunt, Bashera Abdul-Hadi. "They hid it. They hid it well."

She said she had taken in four of Cuffie's older children but ran out of room when Khalil was born. Another family member then stepped in. However, he was gradually reunited with his birthparents, at first under Department of Human Services' supervision. That contact later stopped.

Defense lawyers conceded at the nonjury trial that their clients may be guilty of neglect, but they challenged the murder charge and suggested that Khalil's vomiting affected his weight. They attributed his scars and bruises to falls, eczema and bedbug bites.

Khalil frequently vomited, leading the parents to lock him in his room at night so he could not get up and eat, according to testimony and photographs of the exterior bolt. He was also spanked and struck with a belt, according to the older brother. And he was home-schooled - unlike his younger, plumper sister - and spent much of the day in his room.

"They didn't want anyone to see him and call DHS on them," Aaron Cuffie testified as Hadi shook his head to object.

Hadi had separated from Cuffie, returning only for visits, about four months before Khalil died, his lawyer said.

"I'm not saying that makes him a solid citizen, but he wasn't there," lawyer Derrick Coker said outside court.

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