A bizarre and horrific scene met police in Ecorse, Michigan when they responded to a child abuse call at the Renaissance Estates apartment complex at around 5:00 AM on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.
In the parking lot at the residence in the 3900 block of Seventh Street, they found 13-month-old Zyaire Reed unresponsive on the hood of a vehicle. Police and EMTs attempted CPR but were unable to revive him. Zyaire was rushed to Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
The boy’s mother, Lisa Marie Reed, said nothing about having another child, but later, while questioning Lisa and the babies’ grandmother in an isolation room at the hospital, Inspector Timothy Sassak of the Ecorse Police Department received a phone call from an evidence tech working at the apartment. “He asked to speak to me and says, ‘The twin brother is now at the hospital as well.’”
That’s right. A second boy, Zyaire’s twin brother, Zion, was found inside the apartment, also suffering signs of abuse, and he was also transported to the hospital.
Inspector Sassak said he heard Zion screaming. “He wasn’t screaming because he was hungry; he was in pain. He has the exact same injuries as the other child. That’s too much of a coincidence to ignore.”
He added, “You see injuries that are compounded by a little bit of healing and then, aggressive again. I could go into detail about what the doctor said, but it would make you sick.”
Zion was taken into surgery to repair some of his broken bones, which included his femur, hip, nose, and both clavicles. He was also treated for brain bleeding.
Both boys had suffered severe facial injuries and broken blood vessels in their eyes. Zion’s cheek and ears were swollen, and his lip was cut. Their wounds appeared to be untreated, and officials said their injuries were consistent with long-term abuse. The boys’ bedding was bloody, and the house was a mess.
34-year-old Lisa Marie Reed, who was crying and distraught over Zyaire’s death, was arrested at the hospital. Lisa has four children, but she did not have custody of the two older ones.
Investigators believe the boys were brutally beaten by their mother’s boyfriend, James Gibson, who attempted to flee from police. James is not the father of Zyaire and Zion.
While at the hospital, Inspector Sassak said, “The live-in boyfriend decided to leave, took the family vehicle, and did not return.”
According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, James was paroled in May due to the concern of COVID-19 spreading easily in the facility. Since then, he has taken four drug tests, one of which he failed when cocaine was found in his system. In the past, he served a year in jail on a child abuse conviction. Officials say he has been in and out of prison since a carjacking conviction in 2007.
Immediately, investigators began searching for the man, including the Wayne County Violent Crime Reduction Task Force. “They broke down every lead,” said Inspector Sassak. “They tracked him to River Rouge and to his dad’s house in Romulus. He was calling people saying he’s not going back to jail. They found him in Sumpter Township at his uncle’s house. He had been getting dropped off by members of his family.”
James was found to be in violation of parole and taken into custody. He had at least five outstanding warrants in Traverse City, including one accusing him of child abuse. As yet, James has not been charged in connection with the abuse of either twin or the murder of Zyaire.
Lisa Marie Reed was arraigned in 25th District Court on July 30 on a single charge of first degree child abuse and is currently in custody being held at the Andrew C. Baird Detention Facility in Detroit. The child abuse charge is punishable with a sentence of up to life in prison.
An investigation into Zyaire’s death is ongoing, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. After Zyaire’s autopsy results are finalized, additional charges, possibly including first-degree murder, could be filed.
Inspector Sassak told Fox 2 about the case, “This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”
A relative of Lisa and the boys told the News Herald that the situation was a nightmare for the family. “We’re doing horrible, just horrible. This is a total shock… they just had a wonderful birthday party for them.”
At the party, a neighbor saw James put one of the boys into a car in a way that caused concern, and the neighbor informed the family about it. That was the first time the relative had met James, who dressed up with the rest of the family in matching t-shirts.
According to the relative, no one could believe Lisa would put a man above her children. She and James, who had lived together about three months, had exchanged “promise rings” and considered themselves engaged.
“I can’t wrap my head around this,” the relative said tearfully. “I would not stick up for her, and she should be in jail, if this was the case, but I know Lisa, and she wouldn’t hurt anyone.”
The twins’ grandmother, Sue Williams-Bawol, told a reporter she believed her daughter was being manipulated by her live-in boyfriend.
Much has been made of the photo on the right. Both boys’ faces are clearly bruised, and many a keyboard warrior has posted savage comments pointed at Sue, saying she should have known the boys were being abused and that she’s partially responsible for Zyaire’s death. Come on, people. Is life really that black and white for you? Reportedly, the family was told the bruises were caused when James fell down the stairs while holding both boys. If they’d never witnessed any indications of abuse before, which is entirely possible — and who runs a background check on every family member’s new paramour? — then there was no reason they would immediately run to the phone to call CPS.
The twins’ uncle, Ricky Tanner, spoke with Fox 2, describing his nephews as “two very innocent boys, happy, loving children.”
Ricky received that terrible phone call very early on the morning of July 28. “To realize what happened in that home to those boys, it angered me and brought me to a level I never thought I would understand.”
“I want him to know what he did to this family,” Ricky said. “I want him to know the suffering.”
James Gibson’s uncle, Henry Gibson, spoke with the news station, saying his nephew “was very emotional, crying and babbling and very remorseful about the whole situation.” Henry also said, “He said that baby was choking on vomit, he tried to do CPR, and that he never put his hands on those kids.” (So… why was he remorseful, then?)
Henry said he told James, “I told him if that’s what you’ve done, turn yourself in, you give your statement. You are going to be sitting in jail. But the medical examiner is either going to back up what you said or prove that you’re lying.”
Zion is doing well, recovering from his injuries and his surgery, and in the care of a family member. A Facebook fundraiser for Zyaire’s funeral raised $10,812 within days; any funds left over will be used for Zion’s care or placed into a trust for him.
Zyaire, who has been described as the quieter, more laid-back of the twins, was laid to rest in early August.
Below is a video Lisa posted of the boys on Facebook in August of 2019.
It’s heartbreaking to think of Zion growing up without his other half, and it’s sadder still that Zyaire was only on this planet long enough to celebrate a single birthday. Rest in peace, little Zyaire. I hope Zion has a full recovery and grows up in a safe, loving home.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Zyaire’s case.
Sources: The News Herald, MLive, Detroit News, Click on Detroit, PEOPLE, Fox 2 Detroit