Spouse of Baltimore mother pleads guilty to child abuse resulting in death of 4-year-old Malachi Lawson

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The spouse of an East Baltimore woman convicted in the death of her 4-year-old son, who was scalded in a bath and dumped in the trash in 2019, pleaded guilty in the case on Tuesday.

Malachi Lawson died more than a week after suffering burns so severe that his mother, Alicia Lawson, and her spouse, Shatika Lawson, told police they saw his skin floating in the bathtub.


Afraid they would be charged with crimes and that the boy would be taken from them if they took him to a hospital, the women tried to treat his wounds at home. Nine days after Malachi sustained the burns, Alicia Lawson awoke to find her son unresponsive. He was dead. The couple reported Malachi missing, but wrapped his body in a blanket, took a Lyft across Baltimore and left him in a dumpster inside of three trash bags.

Police found Malachi’s body in the dumpster Aug. 3, 2019, and they soon charged the couple in his death. Alicia Lawson, 29, pleaded guilty in August 2021 to one count of child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to life in prison, but the judge suspended her sentence after 30 years.


Shatika Lawson, 44, pleaded guilty to the same offense Tuesday, striking a deal with the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office that would cap her punishment at life in prison with all but 33 years suspended, but allow her lawyer to argue it should be as low as 18 years of active incarceration.

Sentencing for Shatika Lawson is scheduled for Dec. 6 before city Circuit Judge Jeannie J. Hong.

In the meantime, the plea agreement allows Shatika Lawson to appeal on the grounds that her constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. Her attorney, Roya Hanna, moved to have her client’s charges dismissed pretrial, alleging her rights were trampled by the prosecution and courts. Shatika Lawson was incarcerated almost four years before her plea hearing Tuesday. Circuit Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill denied the defense motion ahead of an anticipated trial.

Hanna declined to comment after court Tuesday.

During the hearing, Shatika Lawson went back and forth over whether to plead guilty, pausing the proceedings several times. The maximum penalty for all of the crimes she was charged with added up to more than two life sentences, and she ultimately went forward with the plea.

Relatives remembered Malachi as a loveable boy with an infectious smile, recalling that he loved watching the TV show “Paw Patrol” and adored the Disney character Mickey Mouse.

The little boy was laid to rest in a tiny white casket. At his funeral, the program was designed like a comic book that portrayed Malachi as a superhero who went to heaven.

Malachi once lived in foster care, but had been returned to his mother’s care.


According to charging documents, the women told police they thought medical professionals would notify Child Protective Services if they saw Malachi had burns from his waist to his feet and that the authorities would take him away again.

Malachi Lawson, 4, had been reported missing but was later found dead in Baltimore.

In court Tuesday, the prosecution played a video of Malachi working with a specialist to help with his movement.

“Rolie Polie,” the child therapist said, as Malachi moved his arms in smalls circles and laughed. “Up! Up! Up!” the therapist continued, prompting the boy to clap his hands over his head.

Assistant State’s Attorney Callie Smith said Tuesday that the video proved Malachi couldn’t have run away, as his mother and her spouse had claimed, because he struggled with his balance.

The couple had reported him missing, telling police he’d disappeared from his grandmother’s house.

But during an analysis of her cellphone, the FBI found that Alicia Lawson had searched the internet for trash collection sites in Baltimore. Searches of both women’s phones also produced three photos of Malachi with burns and two photos of his skin floating in the bath water.


Prosecutors played video of detectives and crime scene technicians going through the dumpster until they discovered the trash bag containing Malachi’s little body.

Items clanked on the concrete as investigators tossed aside trash in search of Malachi.

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“This is pretty heavy,” a detective said, pulling a bag from the dumpster. The detective placed it on the ground and untied one bag, revealing several other layers of plastic. The detective tore through those. “That’s it,” the detective said.

The footage was edited not to show his remains.

Shatika Lawson put her face in her hands in court as the video played, unable to watch.

An autopsy revealed Malachi died of renal failure and dehydration associated with infections that grew from untreated burns that covered up to 11% of his body.


If the case had gone to trial, Smith said in court, the prosecution would have called a pediatrician who specialized in child abuse. The doctor conducted an analysis of the evidence in the case, determining Malachi’s chance of survival would have been better than 90% if he had been taken to a hospital for treatment.

Alicia Lawson’s attorney previously said she suffered neglect and trauma as a child, while Shatika Lawson’s lawyer sought to downplay her culpability.

Hanna said in court that Shatika Lawson was actually Malachi’s primary caretaker and wanted to take him for medical care, but couldn’t without the signature of her wife, the boy’s biological mother and legal guardian.