Malachi Lawson, the 4-year-old boy found dead in a dumpster Saturday suffered from severe, untreated burns for days before he died, according to newly released charging documents.
The boy’s mother, Alicia Lawson, 25, and her spouse, Shatika Lawson, 40, were arrested and charged with 11 different counts including involuntary manslaughter, first-degree child abuse, reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence and giving false statements.
Alicia originally told police that her son disappeared from the front porch of his grandmother’s home Friday in the 4500 block of North Rogers Ave., sparking a widespread search for Malachi.
But charging documents released Monday detail what police said actually happened to the boy.
According to the charging documents, the two women were giving Malachi a bath after he soiled himself. Shatika placed the boy in the tub and the two women started washing the soiled clothing in the sink, police said. When the women turned back around they noticed Malachi had “serious” burns from his waist to his feet.
During a bail review hearing Monday afternoon, Shatika’s attorney, Roya Hanna, said the whole incident “happened very quickly," and said his client was on the phone with her mother at the time.
“She didn’t want to do anything maliciously,” Hanna said.
But burns on Malachi’s body were so bad the women could see skin floating in the water from his body, according to police charging documents said.
Police said the burns found on the boy’s body during the autopsy matched photos his mother took on July 23 when he suffered the injuries.
Over the next nine days the women decided to treat the boy’s burns on their own. They were fearful that Malachi would be taken from their care if they sought help, police said.
“They both decided to not call 911 or seek any other type of medical assistance due to fear that the child would be taken from them, that they would get in trouble for what happened to the child and their past history with child protective services,” the charging documents said.
Hanna refuted that claim. The defense attorney said Shatika wanted to take the boy to the hospital but was unable to do so because she was not the biological mother.
Alicia Lawson was represented by a public defender at her bail review hearing. Both women were ordered held without bail Monday, with judge Michael Studdard saying they are a flight risk.
The charging document said that while executing a search warrant at the Lawsons’ home, officers tested the water from the bathroom where Malachi was allegedly burned and found that “at no time did the water temperature ever exceed ‘luke warm.’”
Hanna offered an explanation, saying that after Malachi was burned, Shatika called her landlord to adjust the water temperature so it wouldn’t be able to get as hot. Hanna said that’s why when police came to search the home after the incident they did not experience scalding water because the “issue” had already been remedied, Hanna said.
According to the charging documents, on the morning of Aug. 1 Alicia woke up at her home in the 1800 block of North Spring Street to find her son unresponsive, laying in a “puddle of wetness.” Believing her son was dead, Alicia Lawson wrapped her son in a blanket and called a Lyft to take her to the 5500 block of Haddon Ave.
After traveling nearly 10 miles from her home, Alicia Lawson put Malachi into a trash bag, tied it up and placed him into a dumpster, the documents said. The document also said the FBI researched Alicia Lawson’s web browser history and found she was searching for trash collection sites.
“From the time of the child’s injury to the fabricated call to 911 neither Alicia or Shatika sought medical treatment for the child, instead seeking to hide his injuries for the sake of their own well being which resulted in his (Malachi’s) death," the charging documents said.
Shatika’s defense attorney said the 911 call for the Amber Alert wasn’t fabricated because her client didn’t know Malachi was dead. Her wife never told her. Hanna said the woman found out the boy had died while talking with homicide detectives.