'It really breaks my heart’: Tallahassee residents react to new details of 3-year-old’s death

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:26 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Horrific details came to light Tuesday, as we now know what led to the death of a 3-year-old boy inside of a Tallahassee home off California Street.

Tuesday, 23-year-old Te’Lea Jefferson appeared in a Leon County Courtroom for her first appearance. However, her case was pushed to Wednesday after requesting a private attorney. Jefferson faces murder and child cruelty charges in the death of the little boy.

WARNING: Before reading further, we want you to be aware this story contains details not suitable for all readers.

Monday, WCTV shared that the boy’s injuries prompted an investigation. Police said that Jefferson originally lied to them and doctors, but now court documents say she confessed to killing the 3-year-old by beating him four times with a tire iron.

A neighbor of Jefferson’s wanted to remain anonymous as they shared their reaction.

“It is a tragedy, anything that revolves around a child and the death of a child is always horrible," the neighbor said. "However, when you hear about it in a heinous way such as this it makes it that much worse.”

The mother did not want to show her face. But she tells WCTV that her 2-year-old daughter had spent some time at Jefferson’s home, where she lived with her partner and the partner’s two kids.

All I can think about my kid being here safe and sound," the woman said. “And then there is a kid across the street being beaten to death with a tire iron. It really breaks my heart. It just makes me wish she would have said can you just watch this child for a second or anything.”

Affidavit documents show that Jefferson originally told doctors at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital that the child fell off of the bathroom sink, hitting his head on the toilet. But doctors, as seen in the report, point out multiple wounds on the boy’s face and hands, an almost severed finger and patterns of previous abuse, which tell a different story.

In the report, it expresses that Jefferson later confessed to hitting the boy after she was angered that he was brushing his teeth while standing on the bathroom sink. That is when she went into her bedroom to retrieve the tool kit, getting the tire iron.

After she hit the boy once, he attempted to run away. Jefferson said he was bleeding on the floor, and asked him to return to her. He refused, and that is when she hit him approximately four times.

As quoted from the affidavit, Jefferson “Recalled seeing blood spray from MW’s wounds as she struck him.” She also admitted to investigators that the child was likely dead for some time before their arrival to TMH.

She also admitted to hiding the tire iron in the residence.

“It was something she had time to sit and think about. There was no means to protect or preserve this child in any capacity," Jefferson’s neighbor said.

Experts, like Regional Executive Director of Children’s Home Society of Florida Cecka Green, say that tragically, incidents like this are not uncommon. But with the pandemic, the usual 15,000 abuse hotline calls a month have decreased to just 3,000 a month.

She tells WCTV that the low caller turnout is not because there are fewer abuse cases, but not enough people to notice when something is not right.

“If you see something please please say something," Green said. "Because as you see it could literally save a child’s life.”

And Green shares that with the pandemic, more abuse cases are being overlooked.

Here are some things to keep an eye on:

  • See if the child is skiddish or jumpy around children or adults
  • If the child is experiencing extreme weight loss
  • If the child is unkempt
  • If the child flinches when touched
  • If the child has bruises

You can also always call the child abuse hotline, which is free: 1-800-962-2873. You can also report abuse online at this link. The CHS Family Support Warm Line is also available 24/7 by calling or texting 888-737-6303. This line connects anyone who may be struggling directly with a mental health counselor, a CHS spokesperson said.

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