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4-Year-Old Died After Severe Burns From Scalding Bath Were Left Untreated By Mother, Authorities Say

Malachi Lawson was initially reported missing, but police say his mother Alicia eventually admitted he was dead and led them to the dumpster they found his body.

By Dorian Geiger

The body of a Baltimore 4-year-old, who was first thought to be missing, turned up in a garbage dumpster this weekend after police say the boy’s mother admitted he was actually deceased.

Two days after reporting her son missing, authorities say Alicia Lawson, 25, and her partner Shatika Lawson, 40, led them to a garbage dumpster in northwest Baltimore, where the body of Malachi Lawson was discovered, the Baltimore Sun reported. The couple has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, first-degree child abuse, giving false statements, and tampering with evidence.

Authorities, who now believe the toddler was killed the same day he was reported missing, say the child died from severe burns that were left untreated, according to charging documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

Malachi sustained several burns from his “waist to his feet” during a bath. The charging documents state that neither Alicia nor Shatika noticed how hot the water had gotten because they were washing Malachi’s clothes in the sink. The water was reportedly so scalding it left pieces of Malachi's skin floating in the bath tub. For nearly 10 days, the women attempted to treat the toddler’s burns themselves. Officials said they did so out of fear of losing custody of the child. 

Malachi Lawson Pd

“They both decided to not call 911 or seek any other type of medical assistance due to fear that the child would be taken from them, that they would get in trouble for what happened to the child and their past history with child protective services,” the charging document states. 

“From the time of the child’s injury to the fabricated call to 911 neither Alicia or Shatika sought medical treatment for the child, instead seeking to hide his injuries for the sake of their own well being which resulted in his [Malachi’s] death.”

On Aug. 1, Alicia awoke to discover that Malachi was unresponsive. She allegedly called a Lyft, bundled her son in a blanket, and stuffed Malachi into a trash bag, before leaving him in a dumpster, roughly 10 miles away.

Roya Hanna, Shatika's attorney, said during a bail review hearing that his client hadn't intended to act "maliciously." Hanna said his client's wife had not been paying attention and was talking on her cell phone when Malachi was first burned in the bathtub. He added that Shatika wanted to take Malachi to the hospital but was unable to because she wasn't the biological mother. 

Both Lawsons were held without bail on Monday. 

“[Malachi] wouldn’t let you be sad around him,” the 4-year-old's aunt Melissa Johnson told the Baltimore Sun. “He had a smile that would light up this whole city.”

Prior to the discovery of Malachi’s body, a search party of roughly 100 people combed the Baltimore neighborhood for the young boy.

Hershie Klein, a 57-year-old search and rescue volunteer was one of them. Klein, who spent an entire day coordinating search efforts for Malachi told Oxygen.com he felt “dejected” and was in total “disbelief” when he learned the 4-year-old was actually dead.

“Everyone is still talking about it and is shocked that a parent can do something like that to a child,” said Klein, who is the vice president of operations for Baltimore Shomrim Safety Patrol.

“It’s a hard thing to wrap your brain around. It’s a pretty difficult thing to reconcile in one’s mind.”

“It’s really terrible, especially for those of us who went out searching thinking that we were going to look for a living person to find out that our search was never viable, was very depressing,” Yoni Spigelman, 28, an EMS professional who also joined the search party with volunteer organization Hatzalah of Baltimore, told Oxygen.com.

“I was shocked and very saddened,” Spigelman added. “I’m a father of two young children and it hit very hard because I couldn’t imagine the fear and the pain that this kid went through.”