After finding his son dead at home, the man now charged with murder in the boy’s death wanted to dump the 10-year-old’s body and leave the country rather than face authorities, his wife and co-accused testified Wednesday.
In her second day of testimony, Nichelle Boothe-Rowe told a Toronto-area court that she asked her husband to “do the right thing” because Shakeil Boothe deserved a proper burial.
“Garfield was insisting on leaving Shakeil’s body in the house or to dump it” before fleeing to his native Jamaica or the U.S., where he also has relatives, she said.
He also encouraged her to hide out with family members in Pennsylvania, since the couple wasn’t supposed to be living together under the conditions of Boothe’s probation, his wife said. The couple also had an infant son who was 8 months old at the time.
At the time, Boothe-Rowe believed her stepson had died from a bad cold and reassured her husband that he hadn’t done anything to deliberately kill the child, she said.
Boothe-Rowe told the court that when she found Shakeil’s lifeless body in the family’s basement on May 26, 2011, she didn’t know that he had been beaten shortly before his death.
She said Boothe told her not to call 911 and later moved the boy’s body to his bedroom, where paramedics found him the next day, cold and foaming at the mouth.
Both Boothe and Boothe-Rowe are charged with second-degree murder.
Court has heard autopsy results showed widespread internal bleeding overwhelmed Shakeil’s frail body, already weakened by malnutrition and severe infection.
The pathologist who examined Shakeil’s body said the boy had sustained heavy blows minutes to hours before his death.
Previous testimony showed the couple arranged to transfer Boothe-Rowe’s belongings and the baby’s things to a storage locker on May 26. A taxi driver testified he dropped Boothe-Rowe and the baby at the Toronto bus terminal that night.
Boothe-Rowe and the baby took a bus to Buffalo, N.Y., where her sister waited to drive them to Pennsylvania, she said.
In that time, the couple was in near-constant communication by text message and BlackBerry Messenger, court heard.
Phone records presented at trial show Boothe-Rowe first messaged her husband around 1 a.m. to let him know she had crossed the border. But the messages soon turned to Shakeil’s death and how the pair would handle it.
“Pray n make the rite decision u didn’t do anything intentional u tried b strong n call ur dad 4 support he was still ur child n u owe him that much,” Boothe-Rowe wrote her husband around 7:45 a.m. on May 27.
A flurry of messages followed over the next few minutes, with Boothe-Rowe urging her husband to call 911 and do something by noon or she would.
“I just just dnt want u and (the baby) to get involve,” Boothe wrote around 7:50 a.m., immediately followed by: “Cause ur right I didn’t do any ting wrong intentionally.”
In another message, Boothe told his wife he would “make sure u have nuttin to do with this.”
“I don’t as a matter of fact,” she replied. “But I cud have made you help him more. I so miss him I wish it didn’t go like this.”
Boothe-Rowe deleted all the messages on her phone before returning to Canada on May 30, knowing they would prove she had known Shakeil was dead, she said. She was arrested at the border.
The stepmother said she knew authorities would be looking for her, even though she “didn’t have anything to do with Shakeil’s death.”
Court has heard she knew he was being beaten, had seen Boothe strike him with a belt repeadedly and, once, stomp on his chest.
Twice she noticed cuts on the boy’s legs, but never saw the extent of his injuries since he always wore jeans and long-sleeved shirts, she said. His father was in charge of shower time, she said.
She admitted to lying to police officers and, later, withholding information from children’s aid because she was “still protecting Garfield.”
She described living in fear of the only man with whom she’d had a relationship, wanting to leave him but fearing he would hurt her or his sons.
“If I should ever leave the house, he’ll hunt me down ... He also said that if I leave the house, I wouldn’t be leaving alive,” she testified.
“Why didn’t you just call police to get help?” her lawyer, Brian Ross, asked.
“I was controlled by Garfield, I had fear and I was just paralyzed by fear,” she replied.
Boothe-Rowe said she only fully realized what was happening to her while taking a course on domestic abuse during her incarceration.