Mecklenburg County social services officials say they were already involved in the case of a 3-year-old boy who was critically injured this week, but that their investigation into abuse claims was hampered because the child’s mother repeatedly disappeared and failed to keep appointments.
The mother’s boyfriend has now been charged with physically and sexually abusing the boy. According to a police search warrant, the boyfriend had been the target of child abuse investigations in the past.
The child was in critical condition Friday at Carolinas Medical Center with severe head injuries.
The boy was found shortly before 4 a.m. Tuesday at the Charlotte Express Inn, in the 1200 block of Lucky Penny Street, off Freedom Drive in west Charlotte. Police and Medic arrived after receiving a 911 call that the boy needed help.
Police interviewed the child’s mother, 23-year-old Shamika Reaves, and her boyfriend, 32-year-old Corey McCree, and then charged each with felony child abuse. McCree also was charged with first-degree sex offense and indecent liberties with a child.
According to the warrant, McCree has been the subject of two previous investigations:
• In June 2007, on allegations he sexually abused his then 3-year-old son.
• In May 2010, on allegations involving two 14-year-old girls.
The warrant did not indicate whether those investigations led to charges. McCree’s legal record shows two arrests on drug charges.
Likewise, Reaves had come to the attention of Mecklenburg County authorities before.
After a court hearing this week, a woman identifying herself as Gwendolyn Lee said she had cared for the boy for 1 1/2 years while his mother was away. Lee told WSOC-TV that she had reported in March that the child might have been sexually abused.
The DSS said it investigated that claim after receiving a report on March 10. In a statement released Thursday, the DSS said the 3-year-old, referred to in the statement as TR, was living with his mother in a home with another woman and her children. DSS officials said they were told that TR had been sexually assaulted at one point by one of the other woman’s children.
DSS officials said they went to the home but were told that Reaves was not there. People at the residence gave DSS a phone number for Reaves, and the DSS said Reaves returned the call but then hung up.
“Over the next week, the investigator made repeated efforts to speak with Ms. Reaves by telephone or in person,” DSS officials said in the statement. “Ms. Reaves answered some calls but not all, and on each occasion refused to provide her address. Ms. Reaves also agreed to several scheduled appointments but did not appear for those meetings.”
The DSS said Reaves finally met in late March with an investigator. She was accompanied at that meeting by the child and by McCree, officials said.
The DSS investigator said the child gave “contradictory statements” as to whether another child had touched him inappropriately. The DSS said the investigator then scheduled a forensic evaluation for TR at Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center, which is used in such investigations.
“The forensic interview was scheduled for 7 April 2014, but Ms. Reaves did not appear with TR for the interview,” the DSS said.
After that, according to DSS, Reaves disappeared from sight. Officials said they made numerous attempts to reach her, but they said her phone was disconnected and other potential contacts were not able to help.
The next time DSS heard about Reaves, officials said, was Tuesday when the child was hospitalized.
According to the search warrant, evidence of sexual assault was discovered while TR was in surgery at CMC-Levine Children’s Hospital.
Two witnesses at the Charlotte Express Hotel told police that they heard loud bumping and a child crying at 3 a.m. Tuesday, the warrant says.
Reaves told police that she was asleep at that time but awoke when she heard McCree call her name. She said her boyfriend and son were alone in the bathroom at the time.