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Jewish World Review May 14, 2002 / 3 Sivan, 5762

Bob Greene

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Consumer Reports

Even in death, the boy
is kicked around | For much of Charles Green's six years on Earth, it seems, he was looking for just one thing:

Someone to protect him.

Instead, he was punished. As we reported Sunday, authorities in Des Moines, Iowa, believe he was punished to death -- kicked to death by his stepmother, Shalonda Green, 27.

And now that he is dead, efforts are under way to blame the child for provoking his own killing. He is not here to defend himself -- and those who have the most to gain by insulting his memory are doing just that: attempting to depict the dead child as having behaved in a way that brought about the discipline that police say killed him.

We will get to that momentarily -- we will get to the efforts to degrade the boy even in death.

But we will start where Charles Green started -- as a child who was heartlessly punished even before he was old enough to understand what punishment is.

He was born to a Chicago woman, and lived with her for two years. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed him from her home after investigating disturbing allegations.

Debbie McCarrel, an official at DCFS' headquarters in Springfield, told us that Charles suffered from "cuts, welts, bruises, scalding, and human bite marks from his mother." When he was rescued from that home, he was placed with an aunt in Illinois.

She took care of him for three years, and reportedly he was safe. But his biological father -- Tumma Green, who lived in Iowa -- wanted him back. Charles was placed in the Hephzibah Children's Association in Oak Park, Ill., where he was to be evaluated to see what would be best for his future.

Officials of DCFS and the Iowa Department of Human Services agreed that Charles would be well served if he was sent to Iowa to live with Tumma Green and Green's wife, Shalonda.

Mary Anne Brown, executive director of Hephzibah, told us that when the boy departed for Iowa last fall, "We thought this was the beginning of a great life for Charles."

Instead, he was dead within five months.

Police and prosecutors say that Shalonda Green, who reportedly weighed 280 pounds, kicked the 6-year-old so brutally that he suffered severe head injuries, a torn liver, and blood clots under his skull. He died two days later.

Now -- now that it is too late -- authorities in Iowa are trying to determine how Charles' arm was broken after he moved in with Shalonda and Tumma Green. They are trying to determine how his head was split open a week before the alleged stomping that killed him. Tumma Green said the boy had fallen on some stairs. Doctors lined the child's head with surgical staples following that injury -- the surgical staples were in place when, a week later, Shalonda allegedly kicked him repeatedly and fatally in the head.

Which brings us to the insults to Charles now that he is gone -- the blaming him for bad behavior, now that he cannot speak for himself.

Shalonda and Tumma Green portray Charles as a boy with deep behavioral problems. They have depicted him to authorities as being violent with other schoolchildren, as being developmentally disabled, as refusing to talk, as defecating on himself to draw attention, as having so much wrong with him that he had to be moved to a school for children with multiple disabilities. Tumma Green has said Charles was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder.

Shalonda Green told an Iowa television station that "I had had a feeling like I had wanted to hit him and then I wanted to hurt him."

Not that this should matter; as Polk County, Iowa, prosecutor John Sarcone told us, "You can't kill a child -- I don't care if he is difficult."

But if Shalonda Green's defense is going to be based on what a difficult, violent, misbehaving child was sent to her from Illinois -- and if Tumma Green is going to back her up on that -- then what we will report next should be of interest to prosecutors in Iowa.

Because -- there is no other way to say this -- from what we have been able to learn about the kind of boy Charles was in Illinois before he was sent to his death in Iowa, any contentions about chronic and violent behavior problems he allegedly brought with him would appear to be a complete lie. We will report tomorrow.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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