9-year-old's death was preventable
EDITORIAL, Courier Post, April 5, 2009

Those who should have been protecting Jamarr Cruz let him down when he needed them most.

Society failed Jamarr Cruz.

Those entrusted with his safety -- family and social services -- failed him. They knew the terror he faced every day living under a roof with Vincent Williams.

Jamarr is dead and Williams, the boyfriend of Jamarr's mother, now stands accused of beating the 9-year-old boy to death.

Cruz's loss has been mourned in Camden for the tragedy it is, rightly so. Whenever a child dies, the sadness that comes with death is compounded. This particular death elicits both sadness and anger because it could have and should have been prevented.

Jamarr deserved a chance in life. Instead, the last years of his short life were lived in a state of terror.

Why, considering that Williams was first charged and punished for beating him with a belt in 2007, was Jamarr still living in a home with Williams two years later?

Robert McGee Jr., Jamarr's grandfather, said Jamarr came to his house once and was so scared that he didn't want to go home.

That was a major red flag. There were surely others. Jamarr's family should have known more. They should have demanded more contact with the boy, who Williams told police he kept hidden from family. They should have created more chances to ask Jamarr, "How are you doing?" even if it meant crossing Williams. Jamarr's mother, Omayra Cruz, especially should have done more.

It's clear why Jamarr was so frightened: Police say Williams has confessed to hitting Jamarr more than 20 times just since the beginning of 2009 and, at times, sent Omayra Cruz away from the home so he could beat him. Williams would purposefully hit or kick him on places such as the chest, back and stomach so the bruises wouldn't be visible, according to court records.

Monday, Williams was angered that the boy had gone to the bathroom on himself, according to police. He brutally punched and kicked the boy, then coldly ignored his complaints of pain. Jamarr was rushed to Cooper University Hospital Tuesday morning where he died from blunt trauma to the chest.

Jamarr's family could have gotten him out of that house, away from his tormentor. They did not.

The state also failed him. The Division of Youth and Family Services had been monitoring the home after Williams received probation for the 2007 incident. But DYFS closed its case in November.

A full and public DYFS investigation into how this case was handled from beginning to end must happen.

"You wonder why things happen like this. Only God knows," said Monica McGee, Jamarr's grandmother.

In this case, it's actually not that much of a mystery.

People who could have rescued Jamarr didn't do so. Jamarr is dead because they did nothing or turned a blind eye. It is a truly sad story that did not have to end this way.

See related: Death spurs new doubts about DYFS
Tragedy followed $1B child welfare overhaul


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