Friday, March 1, 2013 | 7:20 p.m.
Roderick “RJ” Arrington, the 7-year-old allegedly beaten to death by his mother and stepfather, had 53 areas of injuries on his body, a forensic pathologist testified Friday during a preliminary hearing in Las Vegas Justice Court.
Those were the external injuries, such as bruises and lacerations. Arrington also had a subdural hematoma — a collection of blood on the brain — and a swollen brain, among other internal injuries, said Lary Simms, a Clark County forensic pathologist.
The boy’s mother, Dina Palmer, kept her head bowed as the prosecution showed photos taken of Arrington’s injuries after his death. Arrington died Dec. 3 after being removed from life support.
Dina Palmer and her husband, Markiece Palmer, who was the victim’s stepfather, have been charged with murder, in addition to child abuse-related counts.
After testimony from five witnesses, Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman upheld the charges against the couple and bound the case over to Clark County District Court, where they will make their first appearance March 12.
Simms testified that many of the injury locations, such as on the buttocks and back, suggested that someone else had inflicted them upon Arrington. He ruled the boy’s death a homicide, caused by blunt head trauma from assault.
“It would have taken a miracle for him to have survived,” said Richard Sterett, a doctor in the pediatric intensive-care unit at University Medical Center.
Sterett testified that Arrington arrived at the hospital unresponsive and in a coma, and brain swelling required a procedure to remove part of his skull.
Arrington was pronounced brain dead Nov. 30, a day after he arrived to the hospital.
Arrington’s mother and stepfather did not immediately call 911 when they found him unresponsive at home, though.
Pastor Kenneth Hollingsworth testified that Markiece Palmer, a “prayer partner” of his, called him in a frenzy the morning of Nov. 29 and said Arrington would not wake up.
When Hollingsworth advised him to call 911, Markiece Palmer resisted because he had “whooped” the boy the previous night, Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth, who married the couple in California about a year before the incident, said he called Markiece Palmer two times after their initial conversation, urging him to summon an ambulance. The phone exchanges occurred over a couple-hour period, he said.
Hollingsworth said the couple lived with him for a short period, and he never noticed any abuse by either Dina Palmer or Markiece Palmer.
“Dina was a wonderful mother,” Hollingsworth said, adding that Markiece Palmer appeared to be a good stepfather, as well.
Candice Barker, a child abuse and neglect specialist for Metro Police, testified Dina Palmer admitted to beating Arrington the previous night.
During an interview at the hospital, Dina Palmer said the couple beat Arrington with a belt after he lied about reading the Bible, Barker testified. Markiece Palmer allegedly beat Arrington first, followed by the mother.
At one point, Arrington ran away from his stepfather and hit his head on a kitchen table, Dina Palmer told investigators. The mother also said Markiece Palmer would bang Arrington against a bedroom wall, which left an indentation in the drywall, Barker testified.
Dina Palmer told investigators she left their residence that evening to buy soda at a nearby convenience store. Surveillance video pulled from the business, however, does not show her being there, Barker said.
Markiece Palmer also confessed to beating his stepson with a belt and shaking him twice, according to testimony from Rebecca Baltz, a Metro child abuse and neglect specialist, who interviewed him.
Arrington, a second-grader at Roundy Elementary School, had moved to Las Vegas in September to live with his mother and stepfather. Clark County Department of Family Services had received a Child Protective Services report taken Nov. 28, noting concerns about possible abuse toward Arrington.
A department review of the case determined that some staff failed to apply policies correctly. One employee was fired as a result.
Dina Palmer, 27, and Markiece Palmer, 34, remain in the Clark County Detention Center without bail.
Brian Nordli contributed to this story.