Beaten and burned; 5 local toddler homicides

Levi Tyrell “Little Bill” Barrett was beaten to death.

So too was Takota Hasty, who was not breathing when he arrived at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

The doctor who treated Rylee Sellers before her death testified her injuries were consistent with someone falling out of a second- or third-story window.

Stanley Thomas III had burns on his arm and 20 separate blunt force injuries to his head, face and neck in addition to the fatal injury to the back of his skull.

Each of these high-profile local child death cases have something in common with the homicide case involving Ryan “Luke” St. John, who was convicted April 6 in the death of 2-year-old Brayden Ferguson. All resulted in convictions of men acting as caregivers. And in two of the cases, the deceased child’s mother also was convicted. In a third case, a foster mom was convicted.

Dayton Daily News investigation into Brayden’s death found critical mistakes were made by Dayton Police and other agencies that may have put Brayden at grave risk.

FULL REPORT: Critical mistakes led to two-year-old’s death from beating

No two child homicide cases are exactly alike, but the four cases above — which occurred between 2011 and 2015 — all resulted in lengthy prison sentences, at least for the men.

Three of the men were sentenced to life sentences and the fourth was sentenced to 18 years but died in jail of a suspected overdose. The mothers received sentences of three years, six years and 12 years.

Brayden Ferguson died of a massive skull fracture in February 2017. St. John on April 6 of this year was found guilty of murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. He will be sentenced on May 1.

Timeline: Toddler’s death followed police, children services involvement

The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office released a statement last week that Brayden’s mother, Kelsie Martin, will not face charges.

Here is a synopsis of the four other cases:


Joe C. Watson IV was convicted in 2012 of killing Levi Tyrell “Little Bill” Barrett. Watson told Dayton detectives that Levi fell down a set of stairs, seemed fine when he went to bed but was in distress the next morning.

Levi, who was two years old, was rushed to the hospital where he died. Dayton police said Levi appeared to have been systematically beaten and abused.

Watson, 32, was sentenced to 15 years to life and is housed in the Ross Correctional Institution. His first parole hearing is scheduled for October 2026.

Levi’s mother, Michelle Mooty, was convicted of permitting child abuse (causing death), complicity to commit felonious assault and endangering children. She was sentenced to 12 years.

Mooty, 28, was denied in her effort for early judicial release. She is housed at the Dayton Correctional Institution (DCI).

TAKOTA HASTY: Oct. 8, 2013

Dustin Rybak was convicted in March 2016 of involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and two counts of tampering with evidence in the death of Takota, 19 months.

Investigators said Rybak used makeup to cover up bruises and burn marks on Takota, who suffered injuries while in the care of Rybak and Takota’s mother, Crystal Laurel. Rybak was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Rybak, 28, died of a fentanyl overdose in November 2016 after he was transported back to the Montgomery County Jail to possibly be a witness in the trial of Jesse York, who was eventually convicted of killing 22-month-old Rylee Sellers.

Laurel, 28, who prosecutors say also tried to cover up Takota’s injuries, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Currently housed at DCI, Laurel may be allowed to serve the last six months of her prison term in a halfway house. She originally was scheduled to be released in March 2019.

RYLEE SELLERS: Nov. 15, 2013

Jesse York was convicted in March 2017 of murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and felonious assault in connection with Rylee’s death.

Prosecutors said Rylee was fatally injured during a three-hour period while York babysat the child as her mother was at work.

York called 911 to get help. “She’s not alert at all,” York told a dispatcher. “She’s not talking. She’s limp.”

York was sentenced to 15 years to life. He is serving his time at the Noble Correctional Institution and is scheduled for his first parole hearing in November 2028.


Torace Weaver, the pastor at King of Glory Worship Center in Dayton, was convicted in April 2017 of murder, reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter, felonious assault, endangering children and obstructing official business in the death of his foster son, Stanley, 2.

Prosecutors said Stanley suffered a fractured skull, bruises, scars and burns. Initially, Weaver told police the boy fell off a table. Later, he said they had been playing “Superman” when Stanley slipped and hit a wall.

Weaver was sentenced to 18 years to life while his wife, Shureka, was sentenced to three years in prison for child endangerment.

Weaver, who isn’t scheduled for a parole hearing until July 2034, has a hearing this month on an appeal of his sentence. He is housed in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. 

Shureka Weaver, who is at DCI, is scheduled to be released in March 2020. She could get out in September 2019 if she qualifies for early judicial release.

Not protected: These 19 children died after welfare agencies returned them to their birth parents

Reader Comments

Next Up in Local

Areas of fog, cold temperatures to start the work week 
Areas of fog, cold temperatures to start the work week 

Bitter cold morning  Patchy fog this AM  Temperatures near normal this week Rounds of showers return Wednesday night TODAY: It is a cold start to the week, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. Temperatures are dipping into the teens in spots with the morning commute looking quiet. Patchy fog continues to develop this morning...
Occupants bail after pursuit involving OSP in Warren County
Occupants bail after pursuit involving OSP in Warren County

Two occupants have reportedly fled on foot after a pursuit involving the Ohio State Highway Patrol ended in Franklin Monday morning. Initial reports indicate the pursuit of a stolen vehicle on southbound I-75 went into the city of Franklin before ending in the area of Miami and Lake Avenues around 2:40 a.m.  According to dispatchers from the Hamilton...
WPAFB Monday Weather: Sunshine, single-digit wind chill values to start the week 
WPAFB Monday Weather: Sunshine, single-digit wind chill values to start the week 

Chilly conditions will start off the morning as temperatures drop into the upper teens, according to Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Jesse Maag. A light breeze could bring wind chill values as low as the single digits at the coldest part of the morning. Throughout the day we can expect sunny skies with high temperatures climbing into the mid 30s.
20th anniversary tour of ‘Rent’ starts in Cincinnati this week
20th anniversary tour of ‘Rent’ starts in Cincinnati this week

In 1996, a rock musical by an obscure composer revolutionized musical theater, injecting youth and millennial social commentary into a landscape dominated by period standbys like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables.” “Rent” followed a cross-section of young artists from all over the sexuality spectrum, struggling...
Large Miami County property that served as longtime children’s home site sold
Large Miami County property that served as longtime children’s home site sold

A property donated to Miami County in the 1800s for use as a children’s home has been sold to one of the county’s townships, whose plans are not yet known. The Miami County commissioners on Tuesday sold the 171.75-acre Children’s Home Farm east of Troy to the Elizabeth Twp. Board of Trustees. The township agreed to buy the land for...
More Stories