LAS VEGAS -- Last week's death of 2-year-old Las Vegas toddler Orlando Morris, allegedly at the hands of convicted sex offender Cory Simmons, sheds fresh light on the issue of child maltreatment in Nevada.
Infants who haven't reached their first birthday have traditionally made up the highest percentage of child maltreatment victims in Nevada, but 2-year-olds have overtaken 1-year-olds for second place on that dubious list, according to the latest data from the Children's Bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A recent report from Journal Pediatrics showed that Nevada was fourth in the nation for children being removed from abusive homes.
Simmons made his initial appearance in a Las Vegas courtroom Wednesday morning. He is accused of killing Morris while he was supposed to be babysitting him. The child's mother was at work. She had only recently entered into a relationship with Simmons.
"They have this illusion of safety," said Rebecca Reyes who is a Shade Tree victim advocate. She says women often enter dangerous relationships because they want emotional and financial security.
In the case of Simmons, Metro Police say he met the woman online and moved in with her quickly thereafter. Simmons was supposed to be watching her three children last Thursday. Detectives say he placed his right hand on the boy's throat for two to three minutes to stop him from crying. The toddler died a short time later. The arrest report also pointed out that the child's rectal area "did not look right."
Nevada's Institute for Children's Research and Policy is trying to end abuse cases. In April, Tara Phebus is launching a campaign called Choose Your Partner Carefully. It forces women to look for red flags in a relationship.
"Things like is he constantly telling you that your kids are annoying or he feels like they're a nuisance," said Tara Phebus, Nevada Institute for Children's Research and Policy.
She also wants to remind women that while Prince Charming might have a connection to you, he may have one with your child.
"It's not their child, they're not the uncle, they're essentially a stranger to that child," she said.
Worst of all, case workers say abusive relationships make children think it's healthy making it harder to end the cycle of abuse.
The number of child fatalities statewide caused by abuse or neglect has zigzagged in recent years. There were 15 fatalities in 2010, 29 in 2009, 17 in 2008, 21 in 2007 and 14 in 2006.
Wednesday, August 27 2014 8:34 PM EDT2014-08-28 00:34:04 GMT
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