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Foster parents who admitted to lashing of Ayana Bennett Moody to face serious charges, says Commissioner of Police

Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2023. 6:53 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: “Multiple trauma” caused the death of four-year-old Ayana Bennett Moody on Friday, according to the result of a post-mortem examination conducted today.

Her foster parents, Mennonites from the village of Spanish Lookout, Cayo District, are being held on charges of aggravated assault but will certainly face more serious charges pending advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Commissioner of Police Chester Williams said today at a press briefing.

“Now that the post-mortem examination has been concluded, the result of that has been forwarded to the DPP and we await further instructions from her as it relates to any further charges. I can say that both foster parents have admitted to having lashed the child with a belt, according to them; I don’t know that a belt would cause that amount of force as the doctor described following the post-mortem,” the Commissioner stated.

As to whether the examination showed the trauma to have been recent or committed over a longer period, the Commissioner told us he was seeking clarification from the forensic examiner.

But tellingly, he continued, the foster parents are said to have admitted to administering several beatings to Ayana over 24 hours, allegedly because she refused to participate in a teaching lesson on calling names of colors – that she would not identify a yellow tractor parked outside the residence.

Section 38 of the Criminal Code limits the justifiable use of force and harm as it relates to the discipline of children – that it must not be “too excessive” and if it is severe enough to cause death then the charge could be as potentially high as manslaughter, but not necessarily murder which requires proof of intent on the part of the accused. That decision will be up to the DPP, as the Commissioner explained: “The DPP is a person of good temperament and good judgment; whatever charges she decides on, we are going to proceed [with]; I can tell you though that she is not the type to act based on public pressure. She is going to act based on the evidence that is before her.”

Bennett’s biological mother has now lost two children under the age of five after her younger sister was shot dead at their Belize City home in 2018.

Despite the incongruity of a young black girl being plucked from Southside Belize City to live in the mostly rural, bucolic environment of Spanish Lookout, the Commissioner said he would not question the decision of the Human Services Department on the matter as it was intended, he believed, to remove her from an environment that would have exposed her to gangs and crime at a tender age.

 

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