Couple accused in toddler's death appears in court
MIAMI (WSVN) -- While an intense investigation into the death of a 2-year-old continues, the mother and her boyfriend implicated in the boy's death appeared in court Wednesday morning.
Thirty-two-year-old Claude Alexis and 22-year-old Cierrah Raphael were placed behind bars Tuesday in connection to the apparent killing of the woman's 2-year-old son, Ezra Raphael, last Thursday. Investigators said, the boy's demise came at the hands of her boyfriend, Alexis.
According to Debra Elder, who said she had helped raise the mother and then the little boy, described him as healthy. "I want everybody to know what kind of baby Baby Ezra was, a beautiful baby, no health problems, joyful baby, loved the cartoons, loved to play."
The woman, who the little boy called his grandmother, shrugged off the limits of words like "pain" to try to describe what she is feeling. "Oh, my gosh, that's not even the word for it."
Wednesday morning, both the mother and boyfriend appeared in court. Alexis was arrested and charged with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse. Authorities later apprehended Raphael and charged her with child neglect.
Investigators said, last Thursday night, Alexis was looking after 2-year-old Raphael, who only turned 2 in May. Just after 11 p.m., police and fire rescue crews arrived at his residence, located at 15664 NE 10th Court in North Miami Beach, in response to a report of a sick and unresponsive child. He told police he beat the boy for making a mess.
Her boyfriend was the only one home when the boy was found on the floor, unresponsive. According to a police report, Raphael told police she was a prostitute and would leave the boy with Alexis while she solicited sex. Elder said, she knew nothing of the prostitution. "Had I ever known she had problems out in the street, I would never let Ezra go with her."
According to Debra Elder, who said she had helped raise the mother and then the little boy, she was oftentimes the boy's caretaker when his mother would go out to work. She said she had not seen the little boy since his birthday on May 11.
She would later learn from the elder Raphael that the little boy had died. "I didn't ever think about the baby as dead, and she told me, 'No, the baby is gone.' I said, 'What you mean gone? Not dead gone?' She said, 'Yeah.'"
Ezra, who was not Alexis' son, was found unconscious on the dining room floor of the North Miami Beach home. Paramedics rushed him to Jackson North Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities said a preliminary investigation revealed bruises on Ezra's back and body. A Medical Examiner's autopsy later revealed the child's death was due to homicide.
As she stood before a judge in court Wednesday, a defense attorney asked the mother, "Are you working at all, ma'am?"
"No, sir," she responded.
"Do you own any property of any kind of value, and by that I mean anything you can use to post a bond, ma'am?"
That same defense attorney, meanwhile, had to urge Alexis to refrain from making any comment before the judge. "I love that little boy, man," Alexis volunteered.
"Mr. Alexis, please don't say anything," said the attorney. "I'm trying to help you. I'm trying to help you."
The Department of Children and Families said they were only ever involved with the child as far as assisting with some health problems. Now, they are investigating his death.
The Miami-Dade Department of DCF has said he was not ever in its care. However, he may have had a history with DCF in Alachua County.
The couple remains behind bars at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in West Miami-Dade. Cierrah is being held on $7,500 bond. Alexis was denied bond.
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