Ronnie Paris: Returned to His Abusers

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29th October 2023  •  8 min read

Ronnie Paris had been removed from his parents' care due to abuse. Two years later, he was returned to their case, but one month later, he would be dead.


Ronnie Paris: Returned to His Abusers

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Ronnie Antonio Paris was born in Tampa, Florida, on the 9th of December, 2001, to Nysheera and Ronnie Paris Sr. Two months after his birth, somebody reported to the state’s abuse hotline that his mother was not seeking medical help for him despite the fact he had been vomiting for more than 24 hours. Ronnie was admitted to hospital, where staff said his vomiting was most likely caused by his mother overfeeding him.1

In April 2002, Ronnie was vomiting again and was suffering from dehydration. Caseworkers removed Ronnie from his mother because of her “failure to follow medical advice” which included failing to seek medical help and not giving him a recommended drink called Pedialyte. Ronnie was placed into the care of his grandparents, where his father, Ronnie Sr., was also living.

Just the following month, Ronnie was back in the hospital because he had lost a substantial amount of weight. While in the hospital, doctors discovered that Ronnie had fractures in one arm and one leg that were around three weeks old. Ronnie was removed from his family but the Florida Department of Children and Family Services. As per the police report: “The injuries are clearly nonaccidental.”

Ronnie was sent to live with Faye Bing, his foster mother, and she welcomed him as part of the family. He was just like a brother to her two daughters, and she taught him to walk. She described Ronnie as a playful and happy child who always laughed. Nysheera and Ronnie Sr. were allowed to visit their son at his home; Nysheera reportedly followed him around the house while Ronnie Sr. sat on the couch paying him no attention.

For the next two years, Ronnie remained with Faye, and she had expressed her desire to adopt him. However, on 14 December, Ronnie was returned to his parents after they completed parenting courses. The family lived in an apartment on Humphrey Street, and according to neighbours, they often heard blazing rows. Teia Davenport, who lived in the apartment above them, recalled how she frequently heard shouting, fists banging on doors and objects being thrown against walls.

Faye continued to visit Ronnie, driving up from Bradenton. Each time, Ronnie cried in her arms but he refused to talk. Concerns started to surface for Faye, particularly when she noticed what looked like a burn mark on his forehead and a bruise on his cheek during a visit in early January. Additionally, she observed that Ronnie seemed to have lost weight. Following her visit, Faye promptly communicated her worries to Ronnie’s caseworker.

The caseworker arrived at the family’s home and saw bruises on Ronnie’s face, a scratch and a possible burn on his cheeks and forehead. They also saw that he was repeatedly vomiting and regressed in his speech and toilet training.2 When the caseworker addressed the issue with Nysheera, she attributed Ronnie’s injuries to a fall, an explanation that the caseworker ultimately accepted.3

On the 13th of Janaury, Faye’s sister, Tammie McAdams, joined her on her visit. She was taken aback by Ronnie’s condition, commenting: “He was nothing but head; all his weight was gone.” During the visit, Ronnie appeared to be sick, and Faye was informed that he had been released from the hospital three days earlier for some kind of an illness. Faye was allowed to take Ronnie out in the car for a little bit, and he vomited in her vehicle.

Faye and her sister contemplated the idea of driving Ronnie back to Bradenton, but the fear of potential accusations of kidnapping from his parents loomed large. They grappled with the concern that the police might not believe that Ronnie was being abused by his parents. They were also wary that such an act might jeopardize Faye’s custody of her other foster child. Ultimately, they chose to abandon the idea.

On the 22nd of Janaury, 2005, Nysheera and Ronnie Sr. were at a Bible study group that was held at the home of their friends. They brought Ronnie along with them, and put him on the couch where he fell asleep. Some time later, they noticed that Ronnie was unconscious, so they rushed him to the hospital. Upon his arrival, paramedics attempted CPR but Ronnie remained in cardiac arrest. It was determined that Ronnie couldn’t breath on his own, so he was placed on life support.

Six days later, Ronnie died. During his autopsy, it was uncovered that his cause of death was blunt force trauma t the back of the head. He had sustained three severe blows that resulted in internal bruising as well as trauma to the brain. According to the pathologist, the vomiting spells Ronnie had been experiencing was caused by the severe head trauma.4

Both Nysheera and Ronnie Sr. were arrested and Nysheera disclosed some disturbing information. She said to detectives that after Ronnie was returned to their care, she saw Ronnie Sr. hit him several times on the back of the head. On one occasion, he threw Ronnie at her, and punched his head multiple times while she was holding him. She said on another occasion, he slammed Ronnie against a wall.

According to Nysheera, it started with play fighting. She said that Ronnie Sr. smacked Ronnie three times on the back of the head. She said that she told him to stop, but he responded and said he didn’t want his son to grow up “soft.” She described another time when she came out of the shower and found Ronnie crying “after another beating.” Ronnie Sr. then hit Ronnie several times in the back of the head and said that “the baby jumped at him.”

Ronnie Sr.’s sister, Shanita Powell, confirmed Nysheera’s account, telling detectives that her brother “was trying to teach him how to fight.” She said that Ronnie was concerned his three-year-old son “might be gay.” Even Sheldon Bostic, who was Ronnie’s Bible-study group had witnessed the abuse too, but excused it as doing “what other fathers do – slap box.” He said that Ronnie always commented he didn’t want his “son growing up to be pushed around.”5 He further added that Ronnie Sr. said he didn’t want his son to be a “sissy.”

On the 2nd of February, Nysheera and Ronnie Sr. were charged in connection with Ronnie’s death. His father was charged with felony murder and aggravated child abuse while his mother was charged with child abuse neglect. In the wake of the charges, questions were raised regarding Ronnie’s return to his biological parents. Andrew Ritter, a Department of Children and Families spokesman said that the agency was “thoroughly reviewing” the handling of the case.6

During that period, Hillsborough Kids Inc., the nonprofit organization responsible for managing foster care services under a contract with the state Department of Children and Families, was already under scrutiny. Merely a week prior, the agency’s executive director had resigned abruptly, drawing attention to his handling of administrative and financial affairs. The agency had also been compelled to account for the death of another child under their care in Alabama, as well as the unfortunate incidents where a former foster child drowned in a Tampa swimming pool, preceded two years earlier by her sister’s similar tragedy.

In a preliminary review of Ronnie’s case, the state Department of Children and Families criticized the caseworker who had accepted Nysheera’s explanation for Ronnie’s injuries. They said: “If the caseworker had recognized the warning signs, actions to protect this child could have prevented this death. The review also found that there were several other issues that had been missed. Ronnie’s parents hadn’t been given psychological evaluations, even though medical professionals had recommended one at least for Nysheera.7

Moreover, Ronnie’s parents never actually attended Positive Parenting, a recommended basic child-rearing skills program. The review found that caseworkers had underestimated the Risk that Ronnie was facing after he was removed from his foster mother and reunited with his parents. Despite the fact Ronnie came to foster care with serious injuries, Nysheera and Ronnie Sr. were not sent for anger management or other services specifically designed for people who may be violent.

The caseworker who had visited Ronnie after Faye reported her concerns, Linda Miller, was suspended without pay and her supervisor, Dorcas Walker, was suspended with pay. They had both worked at Northside Mental Health Center which was partnered with Hillsborough Kids in working with local foster children under the overall contract with DCF.

According to the DCF review, Miller should have reported at least two of Ronnie’s injuries to the state’s abuse hotline. However, the review also noted that doctors who treated Ronnie for various reasons during his stay with his parents did not see signs of abuse. The review ultimately found that Miller’s inability to recognize signs of abuse and neglect contributed to Ronnie’s death.

Ronnie Sr. was ordered to stand trial for the murder of his son, and the trial began in July of 2005. The prosecution portrayed Ronnie Sr. as a man who wanted more of his wife’s attention, who complained about not having enough sex since the birth of Ronnie, and openly questioned whether Ronnie was actually his.

The defence, on the other hand, tried to shift the blame to Nysheera. They claimed that Nysheera’s account of what happened was nothing more than an attempt to save herself. He said she had given conflicting accounts of the abuse that was inflicted on Ronnie, and questioned her decision to withhold the truth from detectives.

Nysheera testified for the prosecution, and said that Ronnie Sr. had always been abusive towards their son. She said that she didn’t say anything because she was afraid of getting into trouble. According to Nysheera, she couldn’t recall much about the six weeks she had spent with her son after he was allowed to return home, but she could remember Ronnie Sr. beating him to death.8

She testified: “Ronnie came in the kitchen. He was upset, and he slammed the baby up against the wall.” The next day, Ronnie was acting “strangely.” She described how they took him to a friend’s house for a Bible study, and Ronnie spent most of the day asleep on the couch. They had just ordered pizza for dinner when she noticed that something was wrong with her son. She recollected: “We was quoting Scriptures and stuff, and I looked over at my baby and saw he wasn’t breathing.”

John Haffner, a paediatrician, told the jury that when he examined Ronnie when he arrived at the hospital that day, he was taken aback by how skinny he was. Testing showed that Ronnie had sustained two serious head injuries before he fell unconscious. Haffner testified: “I noted in my notes that the injury was suspicious.”

The evidence against Ronnie Sr. was overwhelming, and after just three hours of deliberation, he was found guilty of the second-degree murder of his son and aggravated child abuse. Outside of court, Ronnie Sr.’s father, also named Ronnie, commented: “Oh man. I raised my son in the right way. We played football, went fishing, went to wrestling matches, boxing, all that.” He suggested that Nysheera should have been the one who was blamed, not his son. His grandmother added: “Ronnie ain’t never done anything bad. But you know how the devil is. He takes the good ones.”9

In August 2005, Ronnie Paris Sr. was sentenced to thirty years in prison. Before the sentence was handed down, he begged for leniency, telling the judge: “I loved my son dearly. I wish I could hold him here. I never did anything to hurt by baby or abuse my baby in any way.”10 Nysheera Paris was sentenced to five years’ probation for culpable negligence in the death of her son.

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Footnotes:

  1. Tampa Bay Times, 20 March, 2005 – “Why Did Beaten Baby Return to Parents?”
  2. Tampa Bay Times, 4 March, 2005 – “Signs of Abuse went Unreported”
  3. Tampa Bay Times, 2 February, 2005 – “Parents Charged in Death of Son”
  4. Tampa Bay Times, 14 July, 2005 – “Toddler’s Autopsy Detailed at Trial”
  5. The Tampa Tribune, 13 July, 2005 – “Dad Boxed with 3-Year-Old”
  6. The Miami Herald, 2 February, 2005 – “Parents Charged in Son’s Death”
  7. Tampa Bay Times, 4 March, 2005 – “Signs of Abuse went Unreported”
  8. Tampa Bay Times, 13 July, 2005 – “Mom Testified Dad Hurt Son”
  9. The Tampa Tribune, 15 July, 2005 – “Jury Finds Father Guilty”
  10. Associated Press, 20 August, 2005 – “Man Sentenced to 30 Years”

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Heather
Heather
6 months ago

Rest easy, sweet boy. Your foster family loved you more than you could ever imagine and you deserved so much more from the world.

Saiki
Saiki
6 months ago

The grandparents are delusional. You didn’t raise your son right, you raised him to be a homophobic monster. I wish Ronnie Sr. had been charged with a hate crime. Why didn’t he get convicted of first degree murder?

Courtney
Courtney
1 month ago

So many people failed this little boy. Even the foster parents for deciding not to say anything when they noticed his condition worsening. Sickening on everyone’s behalf. May you rest in peace Ronnie Jr. 🩷

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