Months before 6-year-old Zymere Perkins was allegedly beaten to death, school officials saw red flag after red flag — and tried to warn the authorities, witnesses testified Monday at the murder trial of the boy’s mom’s boyfriend.
Zymere missed 36 days of kindergarten at P.S. 192 from September to November of 2015, said teacher Josefina Gutierrez — who also testified to witnessing troubling injuries when he returned to class.
“He was academically behind,” Gutierrez testified at Rysheim Smith’s Manhattan Supreme Court trial. “He wasn’t able to write his name, he did not know the alphabet.”
Zymere was 5 years old at the time. His mom, Geraldine Perkins, had recently become romantically involved with Smith, who allegedly became the boy’s tormentor and eventual killer.
Smith allegedly starved and beat the child for months until his little body finally gave up on Sept. 26, 2016, according to prosecutors.
The warning signs were there, per Gutierrez’s testimony.
Gutierrez said that Zymere frequently showed up at school with injuries — including a swollen jaw, a limp and a bruise on his eye. She reported the incidents and the school contacted the Administration for Children’s Services.
Zymere had minor behavioral problems — including once pelting a pencil at another kid — and Gutierrez reported his behavior to his mom at dismissal. Each time, she noticed that Zymere wouldn’t return to school for days and when he did, he had bruises. One time, she mentioned her behavioral concerns to Smith, who suggested that the teacher mention his name to get the boy in line.
“I said to Zymere, ‘I’m going to tell Rysheim that you are misbehaving,’” Gutierrez recalled. “He said, ‘No!’ He was very afraid. ‘No, please Ms. Gutierrez, please don’t say anything.’” The teacher never used the tactic again.
Zymere was late for school more than 67 times and almost missed his kindergarten graduation, Gutierrez said.
On June 26, 2016, when Zymere didn’t show up, Gutierrez delayed the ceremony until a staffer she’d dispatched to his home returned with him. He never returned to school.
Zymere, his mom and Smith later moved into a squalid Harlem apartment, where the boy was allegedly bludgeoned with a broomstick handle and forced to relieve himself in a bucket in the living room. He had suffered more than 30 rib fractures and weighed just 35 pounds when he died.
Another witness, school social worker Luisa Estrella, said he was a normal kid. “He was very happy, very hyperactive, the typical 5 year old,” she said.