Las Vegas Sun

November 21, 2018

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Man arrested in the beating death of toddler in his care

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Robert Smith

Click to enlarge photo

Brianna Brown

Thuds from punches were audible through the walls of an apartment, prompting a concerned citizen to call police.

This time, on Sept. 19, was about the 10th occasion the person reporting had heard a domestic-disturbance-related commotion coming from the apartment and decided to finally speak up.

So, Metro Police showed up to investigate the claims, but a woman and a man there denied any abuse had taken place, and the officers left.

A month later, a 1-year-old boy was dead, fatally injured in the same location officers had responded to at the Pinewood Crossing Apartments, 764 Twain Ave., near Swenson Street, according to an arrest report.

Robert Aaron Smith, who was tasked with caring for the boy, called 911 about 9:20 a.m. Oct. 9 to report a child in distress, police said.

Injuries throughout the boy’s little body included rib fractures and internal bleeding from a broken liver and spine hemorrhaging, police said. He died at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

Brianna Brown, 24, the boy’s mother, who wasn’t present when first responders arrived, and Smith, 29, are accused of child abuse, police said. Smith is facing an additional count of murder.

The couple provided inconsistent and conflicting accounts — including about their relationship — and weren’t able to explain how a 1-year-old could suffer such injuries, according to the report.

The woman told detectives that she would pay the man to take care of her three children, yet he told them that they were boyfriend and girlfriend, and he would watch them as needed, police said.

What was clear was that police did not buy Brown’s claim that her son was injured in a fall from a sofa the previous day, because “these are not the heights associated with these types of injures,” one of the detectives wrote in the arrest report.

Smith became confrontational with detectives, police said.

One of the surviving children was hospitalized the same day with a liver cut and brain bleeding, police said. Clark County Child Protective Services took him to Sunrise Hospital.

Detectives were able to track down the anonymous caller who in September reported the suspected abuse, according to the report.

That person reported to a 911 operator hearing children being hit, and that they and their mother were being threatened by a man, police said.

The alleged domestic disturbances occurred over several months during the same time period, 11:30 a.m. to noon.

Often, the uproar would stem over trivial occurrences like the time the woman did not properly heat the man’s food, police said. Another time, the person said, a young boy who was being potty trained had peed on the floor, and the man beat him, according to police.

The woman had tried to intervene but was threatened, police said. “The source also stated that the sound of the children being hit was very distinctive and sounded like that of a punch and not a slap,” according to the report.