By ROB PREECE
PUBLISHED: 10:33 EST, 24 May 2012 | UPDATED: 12:21 EST, 24 May 2012
- Robert Byrd died from malnutrition and neglect after he and his brother were tortured
- He weighed barely more than half the weight of an average boy his age
- Uncle Randy Gardner jailed for up to 60 years after admitting murder, torture and child abuse
- Jury deliberating in case of aunt Matilda Brown Gardner, who denies murder
Starved: Robert Byrd died from malnutrition and neglect in May last year after he and his seven-year-old brother were tortured by their uncle
A four-year-old boy died weighing less than two stone after being beaten, handcuffed and denied food by his abusive uncle, a jury trying the child’s aunt for murder has heard.
Robert Byrd died from malnutrition and neglect in May last year after he and his seven-year-old brother Anthony Jr were tortured by Randy Gardner.
Gardner was jailed for 30 to 60 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder, but his wife Matilda Brown Gardner is on trial after she denied killing the boy.
Brown Gardner, of Highland Park, Michigan, faces charges of first-degree premeditated murder, felony murder and first-degree child abuse in Robert’s death.
The jury has begun deliberating in the case, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Robert weighed 21lbs at the time of his death – barely more than half the weight of an average boy his age, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He was said to have skin erosions and bruises on about 90 per cent of his body.
A pathologist testified that the boy had chemical burns from sitting in urine and faeces.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lora Weingarden told jurors in her closing argument that Brown Gardner aided her husband by not reporting the abuse or stepping in to prevent it.
Ms Weingarden said that, days before Robert’s death, Brown Gardner spoke to a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Detroit and lied about her name as she said Robert had flu-like symptoms.
‘She sees he’s dying and calls Children’s Hospital, lies about her name because she’s seen what the child’s body looks like and she knew she would be in trouble,” the prosecutor said.
‘She wanted that child to die.’
Robert and Anthony Jr moved in with the Gardners in 2007 after their mother died of a brain aneurysm.
In court: Robert’s uncle Randy Gardner, left, has admitted murder, torture and child abuse. His wife Matilda Brown Gardner denies killing the child
Brown Gardner was awarded guardianship in 2009.
Ms Weingarden told the jury that the Gardners’ own four boys were the appropriate weight and height for their ages, but Robert and Anthony Jr were not.
The court heard that Robert was born weighing less than 4lb but was up to 1st 5lb when his mother took him to a doctor’s appointment less than a year later.
Ms Weingarden said that Brown Gardner took Robert to the hospital to be treated for asthma in April 2010 and, on that visit, he weighed 2st and had loop marks on his body.Doctors failed to report the marks and low weight to Children’s Protective Services.
Ms Weingarden said: ‘Everyone knows you have to feed a child or there will be severe medical issues.’
Brown Gardner’s attorney, Robert Kinney, told the jury that she herself was a victim of abuse and was not responsible for the Robert’s death.
In his closing statement, Mr Kinney said that Brown Gardner was afraid of her husband, whom she had known since she was a teenager.
She was once slapped for questioning him, the lawyer added.
‘Randy Gardner was a monster,’ Kinney said.
Defence: A lawyer for Brown Gardner (right) told the court that she was afraid of her husband and was once slapped for questioning him
Carl Schmidt, Chief Pathologist for the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, testified in June that Robert’s injuries likely stemmed from being beaten and bound over time, as well as chemical burns from sitting in urine and faeces, the Examiner reported
Food had probably been withheld from the boy for months, Dr Schmidt added.
At Wayne County Circuit Court last month, Gardner was sentenced for murder, torture and child abuse.
Robert’s father, Anthony Byrd Sr, addressed the court on that occasion.
Mr Byrd said: ‘I’m still, like, messed up in the head right now, why did my son have to go out like that?’