The 4-year-old boy spilled his cereal. He was beaten until he stopped breathing, cops say

Authorities say a couple beat a 4-year-old boy to death because he spilled his cereal.
Authorities say a couple beat a 4-year-old boy to death because he spilled his cereal. Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office

Tahjir Smith’s mother told him to get in “the position,” investigators said.

Lisa Smith, 19, had confronted the 4-year-old boy on Monday about his apparent offense – spilling his breakfast cereal at their Abington Township, Pennsylvania home, north of Philadelphia, authorities said, according to NBC 10.

The position is described by police as similar to the pushup position, for an unspecified length of time, Patch reported. Tahjir got into the position, authorities said, but he slipped.

When that happened, authorities say Smith laid him on the bed and her boyfriend, Keiff King, 26, began to strike his buttocks with a shoe, an affidavit said, according to Patch. The pair repeatedly struck the boy in the head and torso, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

They then placed the boy in the shower, the criminal complaint said, per NBC 10. They turned the water from hot to cold, even though Tahjir’s lips were “moving weird,” police said, according to Patch.

Tahjir became unresponsive, going in and out of consciousness, ABC 6 reported.

Smith allegedly told police she began to panic, and called 911 while King carried the boy outside, authorities said, according to NBC 10.

Tahjir was taken to Abington Memorial Hospital, where he died, authorities said.

Smith and King were arrested and charged with aggravated assault, attempted murder and other offenses related to Tahjir’s death, the district attorney’s office said.

An autopsy found old rib fractures on the boy, the office said. Police say Smith admitted to previously beating the boy with shoes as “punishment” when he misbehaved, NBC 10 reported.

The coroner’s office is awaiting further test results before determining the cause and manner of death, the office said.

“This is the face of domestic violence—a preschooler was beaten until he stopped breathing because he spilled his cereal,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele. He added that authorities “will be the voice for justice for Tahjir.”

The couple remains jailed, CBS Philadelphia reported.

CDC statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year.