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Child welfare officials knew of abuse concerns before 7-year-old’s hospitalization, death

Mother, stepfather face Jan. 18 hearing on murder charges in fatal beating

Markiece and Dina Palmer Appear in Court

Steve Marcus

Dina Palmer wipes away tears as she waits to make a court appearance at the Regional Justice Center Thursday, December 6, 2012. Dina Palmer and Markiece Palmer, left, are accused of killing 7-year-old Roderick Arrington.

Updated Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 | 6:06 p.m.

Markiece and Dina Palmer Appear in Court

Markiece and Dina Palmer, the couple accused of killing 7-year-old Roderick Arrington, appear in court at the Regional Justice Center Thursday, December 6, 2012. Launch slideshow »
Roderick "RJ" Arrington

Roderick "RJ" Arrington

A day before 7-year-old Roderick "RJ" Arrington wound up in the hospital with injuries from an alleged beating that ultimately caused his death, child welfare authorities were notified with concerns about the boy.

Clark County Department of Family Services, in a public disclosure form dated Wednesday, said it had received a Child Protective Services report, taken Nov. 28, "alleging abuse and noting concerns as to the nature, type, and extent of physical discipline the child was possibly being subjected to in his home."

But officials indicated the report was "in the process of investigation when additional information was reported to the agency indicating the child had been transported to a local hospital and was listed as being in critical condition."

RJ Arrington died Friday, Nov. 29, a day after being transported to UMC after being unresponsive at home. A UMC doctor reported Arrington suffered from strokes and fixed pupils and had bruises on the arms, abdomen, back, legs, thighs and buttocks.

A source close to the situation said a teacher at Roundy Elementary School, where Arrington was a second-grader, had reported abuse concerns and the school notified CPS.

Dina Palmer, 27, Arrington's mother, and Markiece Palmer, 34, the boy's stepfather are being held without bail in the boy's death. They appeared Thursday morning in Las Vegas Township Justice Court, where Justice of the Peace Ann E. Zimmerman set their preliminary hearing for Jan. 18.

The mother, Dina Palmer, has been charged with single counts of murder; child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm; and child neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm, according to the amended criminal complaint.

Her husband, Markiece Palmer, who was the boy's stepfather, has been charged with one count of murder and two counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment with substantial bodily harm.

Public defender Tim O'Brien is representing Markiece Palmer; defense attorney Michael Sanft was appointed to represent Dina Palmer.

The Clark County Coroner's Office has not determined Arrington's official cause and manner of death.

About two or three months ago, Arrington moved to Las Vegas from Bloomington, Ill., where he lived with his maternal grandmother and natural father. This was the first time Markiece Palmer met Arrington, whom he described as an "outgoing, favorable and good kid," according to the arrest report.

During police interrogations, Markiece Palmer admitted to detectives that he hit the boy on multiple occasions using various household items such as his belt, a spatula and wooden paddle, as well as his hands, the report said. Although the mother initially denied her role in the beatings, Dina Palmer was present and participated, her husband told police, the report said.

Dina Palmer, who sat behind Markiece Palmer in the courtroom Thursday morning, cried throughout the brief hearing.

News of Arrington’s death has rattled the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal in Illinois, where the 7-year-old was known as the “Reverend,” an ode to his passion for carrying a small Bible, said Whitney Thomas, a program coordinator at the organization.

Thomas, a family friend who has known Arrington his whole life, described the boy in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon as a “happy-go-lucky child.”

“He was never in trouble,” Thomas said. “We never had to put him in timeout. There was nothing mean or angry about him.”

Thomas said Arrington primarily lived with his mother, until earlier this year when she moved to Las Vegas to be with Markiece Palmer. Arrington joined them several months later, Thomas said.

Staff members at the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal were sad to see Arrington leave, but they didn’t have any indication he would be unsafe living with his mother, Thomas said.

“All of this was shocking because, honestly, RJ was her life before she met that guy,” Thomas said.

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