NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Four months before she pleaded guilty to her part in the death of her disabled daughter, a mother confessed to Norfolk detectives that she and her fiance physically abused the girl, including feeding her nothing but bread and water for days at a time, according to court documents.
Heaven Watkins died of blunt force trauma in May. Her mother, 43-year-old Latoya M. Smith, and her mother’s fiance, 43-year-old Demont J. Harris, were charged in connection to her death.
Heaven was 11 years old and suffered from cerebral palsy and autism. She needed the assistance of braces to walk and wore diapers. Her mother told police that Heaven’s death came after months of physical abuse by Smith and Harris, including one incident where Heaven had to get skin grafts after she was burned badly, according to documents filed in Norfolk Circuit Court.
Police first interviewed Smith on May 18. She denied that she and Harris ever abused Heaven. When police questioned her about bruising on Heaven’s chest, Smith said that the child fell a week prior while chasing her sisters outside, court documents state.
The next day detectives interviewed Smith again and she admitted that she and Harris had abused Heaven on multiple occasions, according to court documents.
“She was being abused, putting hands on her again — I was, and also, I was feeding her bread, too, for the past couple of days,” Smith told police.
Smith said the night before Heaven’s death she smacked her daughter in the face while she was in the tub. She also said Harris punched Heaven three or four times in her back because she’d soiled her diaper, court documents state.
Smith also said there were other instances when she denied Heaven food as a punishment for acting up at school or home, and that Harris hit Heaven when she soiled her diaper because he couldn’t stand the smell, according to court documents.
Another punishment included making Heaven stand in a corner for hours. Smith said she was punished every time she got into trouble, which was two or three times a week, court documents show.
In an earlier incident, Harris allegedly stuck Heaven’s hand under hot water and burned her so badly that she had to have skin grafts. Smith said that Harris was punishing Heaven for acting up on the school bus. Smith didn’t take her daughter to the hospital immediately, but when she did arrive at the emergency room she stayed in doctor’s care for six days, court documents state.
At that time, Harris allegedly directed everyone to tell authorities that Heaven burned herself while washing her hands; however, he confessed to Smith that he’d been the one to harm Heaven, according to court documents.
Smith had four children but said Heaven was the only one who was being abused. She did admit to hitting her other children with a belt when they were in trouble but said that Heaven was more frequently punished because she acted out, court documents state.
Smith also told police that she never intervened to try and stop Harris from assaulting Heaven, according to court documents.
“I love all of them equally,” Smith said of her children. “I don’t, like, have a favorite one. All of them, I love equally.”