Case Update: Mom’s Boyfriend Finally Sentenced in Brutal 2016 Murder of 6-Year-Old Zymere Perkins

Zymere Perkins holding an ice cream treat
Zymere Perkins.
(The Daily Mail)

Almost sixteen months after being convicted of the murder of a helpless six-year-old boy, 42-year-old Rysheim Smith was finally sentenced yesterday. 

Rysheim was convicted on January 20, 2020 on charges of second-degree murder, first-and-second degree manslaughter, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. On Monday, May 17, 2021, the Harlem man was sentenced on all five counts; he will be incarcerated in a New York state prison facility for 25 years to life. 

An eternity behind bars wouldn’t be long enough to make up for what this man did to little Zymere Perkins.

As I’ve previously reported on both the blog and the podcast, 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.”

Geraldine Perkins and her son, Zymere, holding a balloon and wearing a red cap
Geraldine and Zymere in 2014.
(Facebook)

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. 

Rysheim Smith with Zymere Perkins and his mother, Geraldine
Rysheim Smith, Zymere, and Geraldine.
(New York Times)

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 by his shirt 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.”

He was.

Geraldine Perkins carrying Zymere's body
Geraldine carrying her son’s lifeless body into the hospital.
(John M. Mantel / DailyMail.com)

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 was scheduled and adjourned several times since then. In the meantime, he was 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 her former boyfriend 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, which turns my vision red just typing it.

Fortunately, the prosecutor’s deal with the devil plea agreement with Geraldine has resulted in at least 25 years, if not a lifetime, behind bars for the man who was (arguably) more directly responsible for the horrific death of this sweet little boy, who was known as “ZyZy” by those who loved him.

The Daily Mail posted video of the sentencing hearing online, during which Rysheim, still huge and imposing, was escorted into court with his hands cuffed behind his back. 

During the hearing, Rysheim said to the judge, “Despite how the prosecution has spoken about me, I loved Zymere Perkins. I put emphasis on that. I do accept responsibility for him being in a toxic environment. I don’t have the financial means to take him out of it, though I was starting to.”

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ruth Pickholz wasn’t swayed, however, giving Rysheim the maximum sentence on all five charges. 

I wanted to feel relieved after the sentencing finally took place, but I don’t. I just feel sick and very, very sad. No sentence could ever take away the torment Zymere endured at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend or the culpability of the multiple child protection workers who ignored his plight until it was too late. 

Rest in peace, ZyZy. Wherever he is now, I hope he knows how loved he is.

Click here for my previous coverage of Zymere’s story, or click here for my podcast episode about him.

Sources: Pix11, the Daily Mail, New York Daily News

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