Murder trial begins for Philly parents charged in death of malnourished 6-year-old

    The police schematic of Tina Cuffie’s South Philadelphia apartment identified the middle bedroom where her young son slept as “Child’s Room.”

    The space, reviewed Wednesday during the start of Cuffie’s murder trial, was anything but.

    Before he died last March, 6-year-old Khalil Wimes was often locked inside the sparse room all night.

    In the months leading up to his death, Khalil vomited constantly. He routinely did so while inside the room, which contained little more than a toddler-sized mattress.

    The bedroom also smelled of urine, according to police testimony, and had been infested with bed bugs.

    These grim circumstances are among the reasons prosecutors are arguing that Cuffie, and Khalil’s father, Latiff Hadi, should both be convicted of first-degree murder.

    The two also are accused of starving Khalil and beating him frequently.

    “Khalil’s death was intentional and inevitable based on their care,” said Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Naylor in her opening statement Wednesday.

    Attorneys for Cuffie and Hadi both maintained the opposite.

    Cuffie’s lawyer, Michael Farrell, said his client is responsible for Khalil’s death, but that she did not mean for him to die. He is arguing that an involuntary manslaughter charge is more appropriate.

    Derrick Coker, who represents Hadi, does not dispute that Khalil was malnourished when he died, but said his client did not intentionally bring on the condition.

    Coker is also arguing for lesser charges.

    “My client, his wife, the whole family is mourning. They’ve been mourning for a year and a half over the death of Khalil Wimes,” he said.

    Khalil died on March 19, 2012, after Cuffie allegedly struck him in the head. He weighed less than 30 pounds and was covered with scars and bruises.

    Khalil’s older brother, Aaron Cuffie, testified Wednesday that his mother forced the 6-year-old to run between his bedroom and the living room as punishment the night before he died.

    Aaron Cuffie, 28, said he watched Khalil run the route once before and that his brother would collapse in the hallway.

    “She would help him up and have him do it again,” he testified.

    He said the child was most often disciplined for vomiting, a persistent problem for which neither parent sought medical attention.

    Farrell said his client feared that the city’s Department of Human Services would take Khalil and his 3-year-old sister away if she did.

    DHS had already taken into custody five of Tina Cuffie’s 11 children.

    Khalil lived with a relative until he was 3. He then returned to his biological parents.

    During a break in the proceedings, LaReine Nixon, Khalil’s unofficial grandmother, said the child was in good health when he lived with her daughter, Alicia Nixon.

    She didn’t mince words when asked by reporters what she wanted out of the trial.

    “That they rot in prison,” said Nixon. “That’s where they belong.”

    The non-jury trial is expected to wrap up by early next week.

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