MIDTOWN SOUTH — He acted like an angel as he went through hell.
A haunting recording of little Myls Dobson gives a glimpse of the boy's sweet nature — even after he suffered lacerations and a head injury under his mother's care.
The recording made by the Colleton County, South Carolina sheriff's office in 2011 — excerpts of which are published here — captures a tender moment in Myls' chaotic life as the child brightens at the sight of a deputy sheriff giving him apple juice while hospital workers treat his injuries.
The deputy sheriff, Stephen Elrod, even coaxes the youngster to grin and give him a high-five.
“I saw a smile coming. I saw it,” Elrod is overheard telling Myls in the recording. “I bet some juice will solve all them problems.”
The boy, then just barely 2, happily answers when the officer asks his age and who his grandma is.
"Are you a big guy?" Elrod asks.
"Yeah," Myls responds.
"Are you 2?" the deputy asks.
"Yeah," the boy says.
Myls died earlier this month at age 4 in a Midtown apartment belonging to his father's girlfriend, Kryzie King. Prosecutors said King whipped, beat and starved the boy for three weeks after she took him in while his father, Okee Wade, was in jail on charges of defrauding banks in Atlantic City.
DNAinfo New York's reporting exposed how the city’s Administration for Children’s Services failed to supervise Myls' care, as caseworkers were unaware of Wade's repeated jail stints while he was supposedly caring for the boy, ultimately allowing the child to fall into the hands of his suspected killer.
The 2011 recording, obtained by DNAinfo through a Freedom of Information Law request, offers a window into Myls' unstable world, in which his mentally disabled mother struggled to control her temper and his frustrated grandmother tried unsuccessfully to get help for her daughter.
As part of his department’s protocol for child abuse investigations, Elrod made the recording at Colleton Medical Center on the evening of April 9, 2011 — a day after Myls’ second birthday — while interviewing the boy, mother Ashley Dobson and maternal grandmother Faith Bennett.
The recording takes place in front of a police cruiser’s camera and off-camera, with the just the audio capturing the deputy's interactions with Myls in a hospital room.
Medical center workers contacted the sheriff’s office about the suspected abuse after the mother and grandmother took the boy to the emergency room for bruises on his head and face.
In the recording, Dobson admits to the sheriff that earlier in the day she struck Myls with a closed fist after he ran into traffic in the parking lot of a supermarket.
“I picked him up and I popped him. I said, ‘You cannot do that,’” Dobson tells Elrod.
She also says that later in the day the boy was knocked unconscious when he fell down stairs at her friend’s house when she was calling him.
Dobson tells Elrod she “didn’t know what to do” after her son’s accident.
“I grabbed him,” she says. “I was like, ‘Myls, Myls, Myls, Myls.' He woke up.”
When the deputy asks why she didn't take her son to the hospital for an examination, Dobson says she “was scared.”
Myls only received medical care after he and Dobson met Bennett later in the day at a local Walmart, and the grandma noticed his injuries.
“I looked at him, and I said, 'Ashley, what happened to Myls?’” Bennett tells Elrod in the recording.
Bennett explains to the deputy that her daughter has mental disabilities and had previously tried to commit suicide.
“See, Ashley blacks out,” she says. “Before she ever had a child, she blacks out.”
At the time of the incident, Dobson and Myls were temporarily staying with Bennett in Walterboro, S.C., but planned to move to New Jersey. The previous Christmas, Dobson had moved to Brooklyn with Myls, to be with Wade. But in the recording, Bennett says that the arrangement didn’t work, and her sister had to call the police to remove Dobson and the boy from Wade's home.
Bennett tells the deputy that she had asked social welfare agencies in South Carolina and New Jersey to help her daughter care for Myls, but she was turned away.
“We were trying to get her some help at the [South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs] before she ever got pregnant,” Bennett says.
"The lady at the board of disabilities said, because she didn't have any type of [Social Security disability benefits] or anything, that there is no funding for her to participate in certain programs,” Bennett adds. “But I'm like, 'But she's still between the cracks.'"
Ultimately, Elrod arrested Dobson for child abuse, and Bennett was given temporary custody of the boy, according to a police report. Court records show that the case was dismissed in July 2011 after a Colleton County solicitor noted that Dobson was receiving treatment and the state’s Department of Social Services was involved.
That summer, Dobson and Myls moved back to New York City. By August 2011, ACS had accused her of child neglect and petitioned a family court judge to remove Myls from her care. Based on ACS’s recommendation, Wade was given sole custody, which lasted until the boy’s death.
In Elrod’s recording, the deputy is at one point in a hospital room with Bennett, Dobson and Myls as they wait for a CAT scan of the boy's head. Ashley is withdrawn and reading literature about working on her behavior.
Elrod asks why she is mad at herself.
“Being a parent is hard,” she says.