On August 14, 1987 one of the most horrendous cases of child abuse would hit the news and send the people of Chicago into a state of shock. The pain and abuse that was inflicted on 4-year-old Lattie McGee and his brother, 6-year-old, Cornelius Abraham is inconceivable and one of the most ferocious of accounts I have ever written about.
Police and Paramedics arrived at the South side apartment to find little Lattie dead on top of a pile of clothes. While all the other boys and girls in the neighborhood were playing outside and enjoying summer, Lattie and Cornelius were being held hostage in his mother, Alicia Abraham, 28 and her boyfriend, Johnny Campbell’s, 40, apartment. They were repeatedly tormenting the boys very slowly throughout the summer until finally, Lattie’s death.
The reason….Their mom’s live-in penis didn’t like Lattie’s voice or the way the boys danced and acted silly while hearing music. That’s right, Johnny didn’t like Lattie’s high-pitched girlish voice and thought he would toughen him up, the only thing he managed to do was torture him to death in the most sadistic ways imaginable. The boys’ mom stood by and did nothing, even smirking at times during her interview and admitting on her confession that she helped in tormenting the boy’s.
Officer Roberto Garay was not prepared for what he would see when he entered the apartment and found Lattie laying on the floor saying “I have never seen anything like that in my life. . . . There were these terrible burns on his ankles. It didn’t make sense. Later we found out that the burns were rope burns from when they would hang him upside down in the closet. We lifted his shirt up, and his chest. . . it was totally raw. All of the flesh.” Officer Garay stumbled for words and was only able to get out those few sentences before he was able to say no more.
Lattie had been punched, burnt with cigarettes and a clothes iron, dipped slowly in and out of boiling pots of water, he was beaten with a tree branch, a hair brush, belts, starved to the point of emaciation, stuck with sewing needles all over his body including his private areas. At night they would wrap a clothes line around his raw, bleeding and burnt ankles and hang him upside down in the closet from a rod. At other times he was tied up and left hanging by his wrists. In order to not have to “deal” with his high-pitched whining and crying they stuffed a rag into his mouth to shut him up and placed tape over it.
The night before Lattie’s little body could finally no longer handle the pain, he was tied up by his ankles like every other night, this time with potato peels taped over his eyes. Lattie was screaming from the most incomprehensible agony imaginable from all the injuries inflicted on him and now his pelvis and collarbone were broken along with some of his ribs being snapped.
Through his screams he pleads with Johnny and his “mommy” that he cannot swallow and for help. Alicia, never for a moment thought that perhaps she should help her baby, her youngest child, instead they shoved a rag into his mouth to muffle his cries for mercy and held his legs together while Johnny continued the abuse. Lattie developed Pneumonia during the course of his 2 ½ months of hell on earth.
Alicia woke up the next morning to start her normal routine, no, not taking care of the children. She went into the living room and watched The Incredible Hulk on TV.
Johnny decided later to let Lattie down out of the closet. Lattie begged for water and Johnny told him “to be a man” and get it himself. Lattie tried to walk to get his water but his little 26 pound skeletal, battered and broken shell would not allow him to, he was too weak and he struggled to get to the kitchen. He would pay for that. Johnny saw that as another weakness in the 4-year-old. It caused him to go into a rage and spew hate at Lattie, he punched him in the ear.
That’s all it took. Lattie’s knees buckled and he was gone.
Latties’ official cause of death according to the coroner was a “severe blow to the head that slowly killed him, but they added, “His emaciated body, scarred from head to foot, was so infected from untreated wounds that he probably would have died a short time later.” Lattie had portions of his skin ripped away from his chest, he was raw in other areas and had numerous severe lacerations.
Cornelius saw his baby brother die in writhing pain. His life was forever changed.
Lattie was buried in an unmarked grave and it was never said if any family members attended the funeral. Later people pitched in and bought him a headstone, James and Tom Gast carved Lattie’s name, his date of birth, December 29, 1982, the date he died August 14, 1987 and the words You Are Loved. Did he ever hear those words? I don’t think he ever knew what it meant if he did.
Cook County Assistant State’s Atty. James Bigoness prosecuted Johnny Campbell and Alicia Abraham. He was noted as saying “This is the worst case imaginable,” he said at the time. “There’s a special place in hell for them.”
6-year-old Cornelius Abraham was the only witness to his brother’s atrocious murder. Every single thing that happened to Lattie also happened to Cornelius but somehow he managed to survive and he would avenge his baby brother’s death by testifying against the monster that was his so-called mother and her “man”.
Cornelius was 8 when it came time for his testimony and he was THE key witness in the trial. He was able to recount all the details of his and his brother’s beatings.
When Alicia was asked why Lattie was only 26 lbs. she said that she fed him and he did eat. When asked why he couldn’t swallow she said he had some broken bones in his throat but she didn’t have insurance to take him to the doctor.
Judge Michael Getty called Lattie’s death “the most heinous, brutally sadistic torture and murder that I have ever heard in my 6 1/2 years as a judge, my over 10 years as a prosecutor, or indeed my 51 years on this Earth.” then turned around and said he would not give in to public outrage and give these two the death penalty. He also said Johnny’s evidence for mental illness at the time of the murder “is absolutely overwhelming.” Two psychiatrists and one psychologist said that Johnny’s mental state was diminished for 2 ½ months during the time of the beatings and he had a history of mental illness. Johnny “thought” the little boys were homosexuals during that time and he could beat the gay out of them because God told him to.
Am I being facetious? Hell yes I am! He had a mental illness that led him to believe that the boys were gay for 2 ½ months? I hope whoever elected this Judge is regretting it. Johnny has never been in an institution for his “illness” , there were also witnesses on the prosecuting side that said he was mentally incapacitated because of his drug addiction.
They said he had no problem holding a job at U.S. Steel for more than 15 years until he was FIRED for alcohol and drugs. So, was he lying about his mental illness? It happens all the time when people want to defraud the government and collect a check.
Johnny’s attorney would later report that the case caused a huge commotion once Chicago Tribune reporter Bob Greene took a personal interest in the case and wrote every single detail about the boy’s injuries including all court dates and information. Citizen’s started showing up with weapons and they had to be searched before being let into an over-crowded court room. Nancy Reagan was getting phone calls from people begging for justice for these boys.
Johnny’s counsel later told media “God, that was the greatest 2 weeks. Everybody thought we would lose. I could smell blood. I could smell the state bleeding. You could feel the blood flowing because you we were making inroads and more inroads. Our strategy was absolutely correct and it was perfect. This was one of the finest days of my life.”
The first responding officer was interviewed years later and said even now it was still the worst scene ever and haunted him. He said he remembers his wife and him watching their child dancing and he could not get the thought of Lattie being murdered for the same reason.
As far as Alicia, nope she doesn’t deserve death either. She was ONLY in the apartment while her kids were being slowly dipped into boiling water, punched, hung in a dark closet overnight every night and having his skin stripped from his body. She did not actually deliver the “fatal blow” to Lattie. That witch knew about it and she damn well heard that baby screaming. She could have done something but she didn’t care enough to. She denies everything and basically says her head was in the clouds the whole time, her confessions prove otherwise.
Her Attorney Clyde Lemons says they will appeal her case on the grounds she never administered the final blow that claimed Latties life .She also claims Lattie never cried out in pain or looked like he was in pain. She lost that appeal.
“The appellate judges-Joseph Gordon, James C. Murray, and Jill K. McNulty-ruled that the trial judge was correct in sentencing Alicia Abraham to natural life in prison, citing a case in which a court ruled that “the (defendant) had an affirmative duty to protect (her) child from the threat posed by (her boyfriend)” which she failed to fulfill when she “ignored the danger posed by (him).” The judges ruled that because Abraham knew what was being done to her sons, she had the obligation to help them. She didn’t; she did not seek medical attention, did not call the police, and, in fact, lent encouragement to Campbell.”
I have to agree when Bob Greene wrote in his article:
“”The people who killed Lattie and tortured Cornelius should never go free,” Bigoness said. “Keeping people informed of their attempts to get out is the best assurance that they never will.”
Johnny Campbell and Alicia Abraham were sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for Latties murder and consecutive 30-year prison terms for aggravated child abuse. Both of their profiles say they are required to register as sex offenders, which is a non-issue. They will be in prison for the rest of their natural lives.
Judge Getty pointed out to Lattie’s father, Lattie McGee Sr. that he was part of the blame for not checking on his son during the time of the abuse. Lattie Sr. did not reply but rolled his eyes. Later he told reporters “that’s his opinion, not mine”.
Judge Getty also laid blame on Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for closing a case too soon. DCFS said they counseled Alicia for a year on neglect charges before the closing it and she satisfied her obligations to the children. Alicia and the kids became homeless right after DCFS dropped the complaint, she and Johnny met at a shelter.
Cornelius went to live with his dad eventually, unfortunately, he was neglected at the age of 12 and was left homeless and alone for 3 months. After 5 years of being shuffled around, Cornelius was placed with Dwayne and Ingra Cooper, a foster family that he would learn to love and in time call mom and dad.
Upon graduating in 1999 and being the Prom King, the YMCA Network for Counseling and Youth Development of Greater Chicagoland offered him a unique award called the Cornelius S. Abraham Award. The Cornelius award would be given to a child every year. It’s awarded to give other abuse victims hope and desire to survive. YMCA said “Cornelius’ brilliant spirit and refusal to give up, His example, they said, was the finest possible to emblemize what they attempt to instill in the children they counsel: “Wish. Hope. Believe.”
When the award was presented Bob Greene, James Bigoness, Mr. and Mrs. Dwayne Cooper were all at the banquet to see Cornelius accept his award. Cornelius asked Bob Greene to present it to him and when he did he told banquet guests:
“That of all the things that have ever happened to me, the fact that he would ask me to be by his side on this night is the highest honor I can ever hope to receive. The award in Cornelius’ name is meant to serve as a beacon of hope for children who think there is none — as a sign that even in the darkest nights, they must not forget that the morning will come.”
He was also accepted into Northern Illinois University and planned to study computer sciences. Bob Greene, the reporter that stayed on top of this case and involved in Cornelius’ life for years was able to raise enough money from his loyal readers to put Cornelius through 4 years of college.
- I didn’t understand what stopped them both from getting the death penalty until I looked into the history of the state. These people, and I use that term loosely, were sentenced in 1991. In 1990 Charles Walker was the first to be executed since 1962. The prison botched the lethal injection up when the lines became kinked and the medication wasn’t flowing through quickly enough. It seems that Illinois doesn’t hand out the death penalty very often and around that time perhaps they were a little “gun-shy” due to their mishap. On the other hand, I may be looking too far into this, I’ve been up all night looking at this case.
- If we take the Judge’s word he said he did not give Johnny the death penalty because of his mental health. What about Alicia? Everything I came across led people to believe that she was just as involved as her counterpart. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t the last one to put her hands on Lattie? OK, but the coroner already determined he would have died anyway and she was to blame for that through omission of her own confession.
- The boys were two of 40,279 reported cases of child abuse or neglect in Cook County in 1987 and one of 38 reported deaths, said David Schneidman, a spokesman for the state Department of Children and Family Services. Statewide, there were 91,723 cases and 54 deaths.
- Johnny Campbell’s prison profile http://www.idoc.state.il.us/subsections/search/inms.asp
- Alicia Abraham’s prison profile http://www.idoc.state.il.us/subsections/search/inms.asp
(If these links do not take you directly to their profiles click on inmate search. The correct Johnny Campbell was born in 1949).
- After Cornelius testified Bob Greene was offered tickets to take him to a Bulls games by the team. Mr. Greene and Atty. James Bigoness glady took him to that game. In Bob Greene’s own word’s he reported:
“Cornelius was a thin, extremely quiet boy; he had the wide, all-seeing eyes of a frightened doe. He seemed almost unable to believe that he was in the Stadium. He had been locked up and tormented and hurt, with no one to save him; the adults in his life had wanted only to belittle and humiliate him — and now here he was. He said nothing. He just looked around.
Bigoness and I took Cornelius down a flight of stairs to the basement level. A door opened and a man came out. Cornelius looked up, and his eyes filled with a combination of wonder and awe and total disbelief. He tried to say something, but the words would not come out. So the man helped him out by speaking first.
“Hi, Cornelius,” the man said. “I’m Michael Jordan.”
I had never met Jordan before that day; he had heard about the case, and had volunteered to do this. He knelt down and spoke quietly with Cornelius; he did not rush. He said, “Are you going to cheer for us today? We’re going to need it.”
During the game that day, Cornelius sat with the Bulls. When Jordan was on the court, Cornelius saved his seat on the bench for him; when Jordan was out and resting, Cornelius would sit right next to him.”
- Cornelius had every excuse in the world to turn out to be a completely different individual than what he is today. By many people’s standards they would have sympathized and perhaps made excuses for him.
- In Cornelius Abraham’s own words: “From bad things, good can come”
Many people over the last few years have beleived the baby in the top picture is Lattie. This is NOT him. This baby boy is Faheem Williams. You can verify the info yourself here http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/nj_to_limit_disclosure_on_deat.html . There are video’s and crime blogs circulating all over the net with the wrong name. As far as I know, there are no pics of Lattie.
- Today would have been Lattie McGee’s birthday.