RIKERS ISLAND — Six-year-old Zymere Perkins would be alive today if his mom had known how to leave her abusive boyfriend, she said in an interview with DNAinfo New York at Rikers Island jail Thursday.
Dressed in an oversized beige prison jumpsuit, Geraldine Perkins, 26, recalled how Rysheim Smith, 42, "snapped" on Sept. 26, pummeling her son with a broomstick until she saw his body "go limp."
"I'm not a baby killer," she said.
"I wish I would've known. I wish I would've known he was no good."
She said she met Smith in a homeless shelter in 2015 and he promised to look after her and her son.
But he soon began to frighten her.
"I didn't know how to leave," she said.
"Until you walk a mile in my shoes, you have no right to judge me."
But she said she never saw her boyfriend hurt Zymere before the brutal attack last month — except for a spanking "here and there."
She claimed no knowledge of Zymere's injured ribs that city officials said had been broken and had fused back together. And the bruises that his body were covered in were the result of him being "a little boy" who falls down while playing, she said.
Perkins remembered that Smith became enraged because her son had defecated in a bucket. The man beat the 6-year-old, then hung him from the bathroom door in the West 135th Street apartment by his tank top and yelled at her to "watch TV and read the bible," she said.
She said she told her boyfriend to take the boy down and she put him in bed, thinking he was asleep. Hours later, Zymere was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Prosecutors said Zymere endured months of physical abuse since June of this year.
Preliminary autopsy results showed Zymere was malnourished, though his mother said he was always eating but was genetically "skinny" like her and his biological dad, who she lost contact with when Zymere was born.
The apartment they lived in had no working electricity. She said Smith siphoned power from elsewhere with an extension cord. It also had mold, rust, mildew and rotting food in the fridge, according to prosecutors.
Perkins and Smith have both been charged with endangering the welfare of a child and are being held in Rikers.
Smith declined to speak to a DNAinfo reporter when he was visited in Rikers.
From the time of Zymere’s birth, she said, she ended up in the files of the Administration of Children’s Services, the city’s child welfare agency, but maintains much of it was “unsubstantiated.”
The first time the agency had contact with her, she said, was when traces of marijuana were found in her system — but not Zymere’s — directly after his birth.
In another case, officials said, after Zymere went to school complaining of pain in his legs this past April, he and his mother met with four different agencies — ACS, the NYPD, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and social work organization Safe Horizons. The boy was allowed to remain with Perkins.
Separate state and city investigations are currently underway to get to the bottom of why the system didn’t prevent Zymere’s death.
The city has vowed to reform ACS and five of its workers have been placed on desk duty after Zymere's death, including two supervisors, a manager and two child care specialists.
Citing confidentiality and the ongoing criminal investigation, Mayor Bill de Blasio, ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión and other relevant city officials have not answered specific questions about Zymere’s death.