Woman seeks justice for slain grandson

She prods prosecutors, police on investigation

April 12, 2003|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

Six months ago, a bureaucrat typed four words on little Messiah Wright's death certificate that forced Hattie Chambers to take an extended leave from her job to become a full-time activist on his behalf:

"Multiple Blunt Force Injuries."

Messiah, who turned 20 months old on the day he was fatally beaten, died where he was born, at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, just before midnight Oct. 10.

It was the end of a brief life of transiency. Bounced between Baltimore, New Jersey and South Carolina, Messiah found respite in the care of Chambers, a 42-year-old retirement home dietitian. She raised the baby during much of his short life at her house in Rock Hill, S.C.

"He was a good baby. All he really wanted to do was eat and play," Chambers, Messiah's paternal grandmother, said in a telephone interview.

In a snapshot from his first birthday party, taken at Jeepers, a pizza restaurant in Glen Burnie, Messiah snuggles close to her. By last summer, Messiah had begun drinking out of a cup. He was an avid walker and nearly potty-trained. Chubby faced and cheerful, he enjoyed good health, Chambers said.

Her son, Timothy Wright, is the baby's father. He is serving time in New Jersey for auto theft.

In July, Chambers drove Messiah home to Maryland, where his young mother had found work at a garage and was living with her boyfriend and another young son in East Baltimore.

She left the child with his mother but stayed in touch by telephone.

Messiah's mother "told me she was working," Chambers said, and that her mother had suggested she raise both of her boys together.

On Oct. 11, Chambers called to check on the baby. The boyfriend told her the baby had choked to death the night before on a bottle of milk in his sleep.

The grandmother, who had weaned Messiah from plastic baby bottles, was skeptical.

And so were Baltimore homicide detectives, who launched an investigation into Messiah's death as the 205th slaying of last year.

The Maryland death certificate indicates he was beaten. What it doesn't say is what funeral home workers noticed when they prepared the body for burial in Tinton Falls, N.J.: dark bruises below his waist and deep indentations in the back of his head.

"He had a lot of makeup on for a baby," said Chambers.

Six months later, no one has been charged in Messiah's death.

Police remain tight-lipped about their investigation. The results of the autopsy have not been made public.

This week, detectives and prosecutors with the Felony Family Violence Unit of the Baltimore state's attorney's office received the final autopsy report and met to review it.

"Prosecutors are working closely on a joint investigation of this homicide," said Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office. "It's a sensitive investigation."

Chambers took a leave from the nursing home after Messiah's death to press detectives and prosecutors to file murder charges against someone.

She still grapples for answers and closure.

"I just want to know what's taking so long," she said.

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