OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) An Oklahoma mother accused of locking up her 14-year-old boy in a closet for 4 1/2 years was previously convicted in the death of her 2-year-old child in New York, investigators said Wednesday.
Oklahoma City police Sgt. Gary Knight said detectives were able to confirm that LaRhonda McCall was arrested in New York in 1995 in connection with the death of her daughter. At the time she went by the name LaRhonda Pressley, he said.
Bronx district attorney's office spokesman Steven Reed said the mother pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in 1996 and was sentenced to jail and probation. Investigators' interviews with family members confirmed the conviction, Knight said. It isn't immediately clear how much jail time she served, and further details about the case were not immediately known.
The 14-year-old boy told police his mother moved to Oklahoma after she was released from jail, and that after living with a cousin in New Jersey, he was sent to live with her more than four years ago, according to a police report.
McCall, 37, and her friend, Steve Hamilton, 38, have been arrested on 20 complaints each of child abuse and child neglect in the Oklahoma City case. Both remained jailed Wednesday on $400,000 bond. Neither has been formally charged, and jail officials were not sure if either has an attorney. No one answered the phone at McCall's home Wednesday.
Police began their investigation Friday after the boy, malnourished and covered with scars and bruises, wandered up to a National Guard armory about a mile and a half from his home and told security guards there he escaped and needed police.
The teen told police he spent most of the last 4½ years locked inside bedroom closets at various apartments where the family lived, and never attended school or received medical attention, authorities said.
An affidavit released Wednesday said McCall and Hamilton admitted to repeatedly beating the boy and locking him in a closet for days. McCall told investigators she choked the teen at least once and used a belt, ruler and broom handle to beat him numerous times over the last three years, according to the affidavit.
Hamilton also told police he also beat the teen, identified as "B.M.," multiple times with a belt and wire cable "when he got out of line," and once struck him in the head with a tire jack, the affidavit said.
"Steve advised he saw B.M. locked in the closet on at least 27 different occasions," the affidavit said.
Managers of the last two apartment complexes where the family most recently lived said they occasionally saw some of McCall's seven other children but never saw the teenage boy.
Karen Gilleland, manager of the Hillcrest Apartments in south Oklahoma City, said after McCall was evicted for unpaid bills in August, a hole filled with human waste was found in the wall of a closet in their apartment unit.
Gilleland said she never realized McCall had more than seven children and that whenever Gilleland had been in the apartment during the several months the family lived there, the door to the bedroom where the soiled closet was closed.
Dea Dollins, apartment manager at Grand Boulevard Town Homes where the family currently lives, said she and maintenance workers had been in the unit as recently as Friday, but the bedroom doors were closed.
"I would see, on occasion, some girls would walk in line to the laundromat and go back to the apartment," Dollins said. "I never saw a teenage boy."
All seven of McCall's minor children, including the 14-year-old boy, have been taken into custody of the Department of Human Services. McCall also has an 18-year-old daughter, who continues to live in the family's latest apartment.
Meanwhile, First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said police have not yet completed their investigation, which must be presented to prosecutors before formal charges can be filed. He said they have ten days from the date of the couple's arrest to file a charge, and he anticipates filing this week.