A New York City woman who pleaded guilty of manslaughter in the brutal 2016 death of her six-year-old son was released on parole last month.
As I previously reported, on September 26, 2016, 26-year-old Geraldine Perkins entered the emergency room at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in Harlem with the limp body of her young son, Zymere Perkins, in her arms.
Sadly, Zymere was beyond help. He had been dead for hours.
Zymere’s death was ruled a homicide caused by chronic child abuse syndrome. New York City Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Susan Ely would later testify that the little boy was malnourished, weighing a mere 35 pounds at a height of three and a half feet. He was the average size of a four-year-old boy at the time of his death at six years of age. Zymere had also suffered from multiple injuries, including multiple bruises on his torso, at least 30 fractured ribs that had healed, bruises and finger marks on his neck, and a contusion on his head. “He had in his case multiple bruises and scrapes on the outside of his body and a laceration,” Dr. Ely later said in court. “They ranged from his head, his face, his trunk, his arms and legs.”
Before today, I hadn’t seen these two photos taken of Zymere’s injuries after he was pronounced dead, including puncture wounds inside his lower lip caused by his own teeth and bruises on his emaciated torso. Be warned: these pictures may be disturbing, which is why I hid them behind a warning image.
From the time Zymere was born, the Administration of Children’s Services was involved in his life, investigating Geraldine for abuse five times in total, but despite substantiation of some of the alleged incidents, Zymere was never removed from his mother’s custody. After his death, two ACS caseworkers were ultimately fired, and several others were disciplined.
Geraldine and Zymere lived in various homeless shelters while she resorted to sex work to feed them. In 2015, she met a handsome, muscular, college-educated man twice her age named Rysheim Smith, who swept her off her feet with romance and gifts. In June of that year, Geraldine and Zymere moved into Rysheim’s apartment. It turned out, however, that Rysheim was illegally squatting there, which did not have electricity other than an extension cord he had plugged in outside the unit. After Zymere died, investigators found the apartment in squalor, filthy, infested with cockroaches, and covered with mold, rust, mildew, and rotting food. Feces was embedded in the carpet, which crawled with maggots.
Geraldine claimed Rysheim became abusive early in their relationship, and she was too afraid to leave. She testified in court that her boyfriend punched and kicked Zymere, hit him with objects, forced him to perform strenuous physical exercise as punishment, made him take cold showers, and deprived him of food. She said Rysheim sometimes forced Zymere to stand all night without sleeping.
On the morning of Zymere’s death, Geraldine testified, she heard Rysheim shouting at her son for defecating in the living room and trying to hide it. She ran into the living room to find her boyfriend towering over Zymere, beating him with a broken broomstick. Rysheim continued beating the little boy while holding him in the air “like a rag doll,” she said, before carrying Zymere into the bathroom to waterboard him in the tub. Then, she said, Rysheim tore down the shower curtain rod and beat her son unconscious with it, after which he hung Zymere from a hook on the bathroom door. Later, when Rysheim threw Zymere’s limp body into an unused bedroom, Geraldine said her son looked “like he was dead.”
Geraldine spent some time cleaning up the apartment and reading her bible before trying to give her dead son CPR. When that didn’t work, she took about ten minutes to put on a wig and some makeup before carrying Zymere’s body out to a taxi, which took them to the hospital, where Zymere was pronounced dead from injuries that one doctor compared to those of someone who had been hit by a car.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2020, Rysheim Smith was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. His sentencing has been scheduled and adjourned several times since then — in fact, a sentencing hearing was scheduled for today but, according to the woman who answered the phone at the courthouse, it will likely be adjourned for another six weeks — and to date, he has not been sentenced. He faces anywhere from 15 years to life in prison. For now, he’s being held in the Vernon C. Bain Center jail facility in the Bronx.
Geraldine Perkins, however, accepted a plea agreement in which she pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for her testimony against Rysheim and a sentence of two to six years in prison less time served, which included the three years of time she spent waiting for trial.
On September 17, 2020, 30-year-old Geraldine Perkins was paroled and walked free from the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women.
This wasn’t the update I wanted to post today. I hoped to crow about how many decades Rysheim Smith would be spending behind bars. Instead, I have to drop this depressing news.
A plea agreement is a bit like a deal with the devil. Often, prosecutors have no choice but to offer a deal to secure a conviction. In this case, it’s very possible the defendants could have implicated each other, leading to reasonable doubt in the eyes of their respective juries. Offering Geraldine Perkins a plea agreement in exchange for her testimony was their best chance to ensure Rysheim Smith would be convicted of beating this innocent six-year-old boy to death.
This may not feel like justice to those of us on the outside who feel Geraldine, who utterly failed to protect her son, deserves to spend many more years in prison, but imagine how much angrier we would be if both she and her brutish ex-boyfriend escaped punishment by pinning the blame on each other. Just like a deal with the devil, we, the people, may end up getting what we want when Rysheim Smith is sentenced, but we have no choice but to accept the cost of that bargain.
Whether we like it or not, Geraldine Perkins is now a free woman.
Rest in peace, ZyZy.
Sources: New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, NYC Department of Correction, The Daily Mail, Justice for Zymere Perkins Facebook group