UPDATE: Before killing toddler, Vernon Henry referred to boy as ‘crybaby,’ prosecutors said

Vernon Henry /Photo from Chicago Police
Vernon Henry / Photo from Chicago Police

Chicago Sun-Times

Vernon Henry thought his girlfriend’s son was a “wuss,” a prosecutor said Sunday.

The 26-year-old man from West Englewood called 20-month-old Adonta McCoy a “crybaby,” according to Assistant State’s Attorney Jacqueline Kwilos. She said Henry wanted to toughen the boy up.

And after Adonta’s mother left Henry in charge of her son Thursday morning at her home in the 6900 block of South Cornell Avenue, the boy began weeping again, Kwilos said.

What happened next led prosecutors this weekend to charge Henry with first-degree murder in Adonta’s death. Cook County Judge Adam Bourgeois ordered him held without bail Sunday after Kwilos described a brutal — and allegedly fatal — beating that made onlookers in the courtroom cringe.

First, she said, an irritated Henry again called the child a “crybaby.”

Then she said Henry grabbed Adonta by the arms, lifted him off the floor and shook him violently.

Adonta kept crying, Kwilos said, so Henry kept shaking — even more violently than before.

The little boy’s head snapped back and forth, Kwilos said. His jaw snapped open and closed.

And he kept crying.

Kwilos said Henry put his hand around Adonta’s throat and choked the boy, who gasped for air but still sobbed. Henry shoved Adonta into a dresser, she said, and Adonta hit it face-first before falling to the floor.

At that point, Kwilos said, Adonta’s right eye was hurt. There was a bump on his forehead, he was lethargic and couldn’t keep his eyes open, according to the prosecutor.

So Henry put Adonta to bed.

He wiped bloody saliva from Adonta’s mouth and left him until Adonta’s mother came home, Kwilos said. When the boy’s mother arrived, Kwilos said Henry acted panicked but told her Adonta simply slipped and fell after a bath.

He said Adonta was OK.

But later that evening, Adonta’s mother heard Adonta breathing loudly and picked him up. Adonta wouldn’t wake up, Kwilos said, so she called 911.

Henry told Adonta’s mother they would claim Adonta fell after they gave him a bath and hit his head, the prosecutor said.

Adonta died Saturday at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He was diagnosed with severe brain injuries resulting from a lack of oxygen to the brain, multiple abrasions and bleeding in the eyes.

Henry eventually admitted shaking, choking and shoving the boy, Kwilos said. Now the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is investigating Henry and Adonta’s mother for allegations of abuse, a spokeswoman said.

She said the agency has no previous reports regarding the family, and there are no other children in the home.

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