A Lakeland man faces charges of aggravated child abuse and first-degree murder following his arrest Tuesday in the fatal beating of a 2-year-old.
Jamal Carson, 24, is accused of severely beating a 2-year-old boy who was in his care for throwing a tantrum, according to the arrest report.
Carson told police he had been caring for the child for approximately two weeks. He admitted that after the child, identified as Mekhi Laster, began crying when he was told to clean, Carson punched and slammed the young boy against the ground.
Carson admitted this after an autopsy showed severe damage to the boy’s body, according to the arrest report.
On Friday, officers responded to a call about an unresponsive 2-year-old at 1020 N Stell Ave. Upon arrival, officers were directed to the living room, where the young boy was lying face up on the floor, according to the arrest report.
They began to immediately perform CPR until Lakeland Fire Rescue arrived and took over emergency care. The child was then transported to Lakeland Regional Health and declared dead later that night.
Carson told police he thought the boy was becoming "fussy" in part because he suffered from a broken foot. Carson said Laster’s health deteriorated, so he carried him to the air conditioner for air. He waited for about 20 minutes before calling the police after the boy became unresponsive.
The boy’s mother, Lamonica Laster, arrived and stated she had left him in the care of Carson, who she identified to police as her best friend.
An autopsy on Tuesday found bruises on Laster’s back, face and lip area. It found that he had an injury to his abdomen, numerous broken posterior ribs, a broken pelvis, swollen scrotum and multiple internal injuries. There were also severe fractures to the child’s skull. The autopsy concluded the injuries were concurrent with a homicide.
Carson agreed to another interview and admitted he was the sole caretaker of Laster at the time of his death. He also admitted to beating the child after becoming frustrated, including throwing him onto an inflatable mattress, where he slammed his head on a cement floor.