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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:

LEVI BARRETT: DEC. 7, 2011

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.

STANLEY THOMAS III: Nov. 18, 2015

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



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