Liquid, an insect and yarn: Starvation of baby Jeremiah demands full justice

Samantha Perry

Twenty months of life. That’s what little Jeremiah Collins had. Barely enough time to learn the basics of play or how to toddle on tiny feet.

It should have been a wonderful age, when toys were abundant and love was given with hugs and kisses and afternoon snacks.

It should have been the beginning of childhood, a transitional time before preschool, then grade school, and, one day, graduation.

It should have been smiles and laughter, and Disney Band-Aids on scraped knees.

Jeremiah did not get this.

Four months shy of his second birthday Jeremiah died of cardiac arrest brought on by starvation.

An autopsy after his death analyzed the contents of his stomach. Liquid, no hard food, an insect, and yarn from a blanket he had been chewing on were found.

•••

Jeremiah’s parents, Corey and Christy Moore, were arrested on Nov. 8, 2018, for the toddler’s death.

They were later charged with murder of a child by parent, custodian or guardian and child neglect resulting in death.

The first charge carries a penalty of life in prison; the second three to 15 years.

After almost a year in the pre-trial process, the life and death of Jeremiah was brought before a jury last week.

•••

In the days after the Moores’ arrest, the true hell that was Jeremiah’s life started coming to light.

The child lived in squalor, in a home infested with bugs and insects.

During a preliminary hearing for Corey Moore in November of 2018, Detective Sgt. S.A. Sommers, of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, testified about the child’s condition and the state of the home where he resided.

“The child was underweight and his ribs were visible,” Sommers said. “He was dirty, his nails were unclean, there were obviously nits in his hair from lice.”

Upon a visit to the residence, Sommers said cockroaches could been seen throughout the home, on the walls, and in the deceased child’s bedroom.

In a preliminary hearing for Christy Moore, Sommers testified that the parents had shaved their children’s heads.

Lice was apparently a problem throughout the home.

Readers of the Daily Telegraph even questioned at this time why photographs of Christy Moore showed her wearing a cap.

The covering was to prevent the infestation in her hair from spreading to others in the jail and courtroom.

Sommers also testified during the hearing that the Moores’ refrigerator was full of food.

Community members were outraged that two overweight parents let a 20-month-old child starve to death.

In later trial testimony, a nurse spoke of the child’s “poor hygiene” and open sores on his skin.

•••

Ten days after Jeremiah’s death, friends and family members held a vigil for the child in downtown Princeton.

I remember sadness in the voice of Features Editor Emily Rice when she returned from the event and told me how few people attended.

During the initial months of his life, Jeremiah lived with his aunt, uncle and teenage cousins in North Carolina. There, he apparently had a happy home, according to his aunt Jennifer Collins.

During the vigil, the small group sang “This Little Light of Mine,” prayed, lit candles and held framed photographs of the toddler.

Collins spoke at the event, and talked of the pain of walking down an aisle and seeing the toddler in a casket.

She also lamented a child protective services system that took the baby away from his parents once, but then, months later, gave him back.

Through the years, I have often read and heard of child experts who say it is best to keep children with their parents.

But is it?

In cases of neglect, abuse and the suffering of innocents, do we really want to give perpetrators a chance to inflict harm again?

•••

During last week’s emotional trial, the final weeks of Jeremiah’s short existence came under scrutiny in an examination of consequences of inaction, good versus bad, and life ending in a tragic death.

The jury’s verdict: Guilty on both charges.

Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Pfeifer must be given praise for presenting a strong case that brought the first phase of justice to baby Jeremiah.

But now it’s up to the judge.

The potential life sentence penalty that comes with murder of a child by parent, custodian or guardian could be impacted by the jury’s recommendation of mercy for the couple.

That one word — mercy — means they could be eligible for parole after serving 15 years of their sentence.

Sadly, the Moore’s showed no mercy to Jeremiah when his hair and room were infested by bugs, and he was covered in sores and filth while starving to death.

Fifteen years for the death of a 20-month-old baby?

The math doesn’t add up to me.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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