I’ve been researching
Reading and writing about so much brutality has changed me, I guess. Much in the same way being a parent has changed me. For example, it’s difficult for me to hear or see anything about violence done to children. When a news story or television show about a crime committed against a child comes on, my instinct is to change the channel. I guess it’s because I can’t help but imagine the same thing happening to my child. I know how a child reacts to pain, from a simple “boo-boo” to accidentally bumping a knee or an elbow or a head so hard that crying is preceded by almost silent screaming.
I’ve held and comforted my son through many of those “boo-boos” that are part of being a healthy, happy child who sometimes plays a little to hard or with less care than I as a parent would prefer. I’ve kissed “boo-boos” and put bandages on them. I’ve dried tears and rocked him until the pain subsided and he was ready to play again. But my son is confident of something that some children are not; that the hands that are supposed to care for him will not harm him, and that his parents are there to make sure he’s safe. That makes Parker a little different from little Mikey Vallejo-Seiber.
Actually Parker is different in a couple of ways. For one, he’s what some people call “all boy,” in his play and his manner. And for another, he has parents who accept him the way he is, and don’t pressure him to “act like a boy.”
The hubby and I joke that at almost-five-years-old, our son is light years more “butch” than we are now or were as boys. Like I said before, as a boy I was more interested in Barbie than Boy Scout meetings. But I went to Boy Scout meetings (and eventually earned an Eagle Scout badge) whether I wanted to or not, because my dad would not let me quit, no matter how much I wanted to or how out of place I felt. I think it’s because he felt he needed to do something to “make a man out of me,” because a boy being as “soft” and unaggressive as me was something to be concerned about.
I was lucky. At some point my dad came to accept that I was “different,” even if he was never entirely comfortable with it, and sometimes tried to see my nonconformity as a sign of strength and independence (i.e., I wasn’t afraid to “do my own thing,” no matter what everyone else was doing). Ronnie Paris (whose story I remembered to add after researching Vallejo-Seiber’s) wasn’t so lucky.
In May 2002, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services removed Ronnie from his home and placed him in protective custody, after he was admitted to the hospital for repeated vomiting, and doctors determined he was undernourished and had a broken arm.
On December 14, 2004, five days after his third birthday, Ronnie was returned to his parents. On January 22, Ronnie slipped into a coma after falling asleep on a couch at a family friend’s house, where his parents were attending a Bible study. Upon realizing he was unconscious, his parents rushed in to the hospital. Ronnie died six days later, when he was removed from life support.1)
During an investigation of the child’s death, his mother – Nysheera Paris – told detectives that her husband – Ronnie Paris, Jr. – had repeatedly abused the child, slapping him in the back of the head, slamming him into walls, and forcing the child to participate in father-son boxing matches until the boy began to shake, cry, and wet himself.2)
And why would a father do this to his son?
During the trial, Nysheera Parish testified that her husband thought their son might be gay, and that he would smack the boy in the back of the head and slam him into walls because he didn’t want his son to grow up “soft.” Her testimony was corroborated by her sister, Shanita Powell, who said “He was trying to teach him how to fight,” and told the court “He was afraid the child might be gay.
Family friend Sheldon Bostick, who attended Bible study with the Paris family, testified that Ronnie Paris, Jr., “slap-boxed” with his son because “He didn’t want him to be a sissy.”4)
“In our society, it’s more acceptable to be a ‘tomboy’ than to be a ‘sissy,’” Witt said. “Fathers have this fear that their son could be gay. Parents can make life miserable for a child. I’ve seen it happen.”
“Children pay a high price when parents and caregivers insist on raising boys to be ‘real men.’ The cost was tragic in this case,” said Taneika Taylor, director of GenderPAC’s Children As They Are program.
Using violence to enforce expectations for masculinity is extreme, but not the exception. In January 2005, another 3-year-old, Ronnie Paris, died from head injuries received during brutal boxing bouts that his father hoped would prevent him from growing up to be a “sissy.”
“For some reason, gender nonconformity is open season,” said Dr. Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor and co-author of Sexualities: Identities, Behaviors, and Society (Oxford University Press, 2004) and Men’s Lives (Allyn & Bacon, 2006).
After all, there’s nothing worse a boy could be than a sissy, and thus it’s never to early to start policing the borders of masculinity, and enforcing citizenship on one side or the other.
Homophobia has extensive effects on males whatever their sexual orientation (Kimmel 1994, Plummer 1999). You will recall that powerful homophobic codes enter boys’ repertoires during mid-primary school – prior to sexual maturity, prior to puberty, prior to forming their adult sexual identity and prior to having much, if any knowledge of what homosexuality is. You will also recall that homophobic accusations are often based on non-sexual ‘surrogate markers’ rather than evidence of sexual activity. Throughout adult life, homophobia continues to exert an influence over men in general. For example, aversion to things tainted by homophobia creates barriers and ‘no go zones’ – certain foods are considered suspect (not just ‘fairy- bread’!), certain drinks are considered too ‘poofy’ (especially if they are low-alcohol or come with umbrellas!), safety precautions in the workplace are ‘for fags’, small cars and driving below the speed limit are for wimps and poofs, and so on. Homophobia comprehensively influences how men present themselves to others, their social networks and their education, career and life patterns. Moreover, in doing so, homophobia exerts pressures that enforce conformity, that restricts men and which limits their potential. For example, the ability to express certain emotions is restrained by homophobia –the loss of face involved in relinquishing control over one’s emotions is deeply incriminating.
And perhaps that’s one way to look at what was done to Mikey Valleho-Seiber; as a police action. A very severe, and deadly police action for transgressing the boundaries of masculinity. At three years old. And perhaps that’s why I can’t get the terror he must have felt as he was dropped on his head, punched, slapped, kicked, beaten, burn on his genitals, sodomized, and
made to eat his own excrement. All in the name of making him “a soldier.” At three years old.
Michael “Mikey” Vallejo-Seiber (August 12, 2002 – August 29, 2005) was a three year old boy who lived in Riverside, CA. On August 27, 2005, he was kicked, beaten, stomped, burned, sodomized, and forced to eat dog food and his own excrement by his mother’s boyfriend – Alex Kermith Mendoza. Mendoza critical of Vallejo-Seiber’s upbringing, calling the child a “sissy” and saying he wanted to make him a “soldier.”
Pamela Sieber, 23, met aspiring rapper Alex Kermith Mendoza, 27, in July 2005, at the nightclub where she worked as a dancer. In early August, she and her son – Mikey Vallejo-Seiber – began spending time at Mendoza’s home in Rubidoux. On August.1) Mendoza had spent time in prison for drug dealing and domestic violence.2) He also faced charges of elder abuse in the mistreatment of his now-deceased 87-year-old father.3)
Francisco Vallejo, Seiber-Vallejo’s father, was in prison before the child was born.4)
On August 15, 2006, Riverside Child Protective Services received a call from a pediatrician’s office concerning possible abuse. An investigator was dispatched to the address given for Vallejo-Seiber’s mother. On the following day, a CPS investigator was made contact with Sieber and interviewed her at the Riverside apartment. The investigator submitted the case for closure on August 22, saying the abuse allegations were unfounded.5)
The investigator determined that a bruise on Vallejo-Seiber’s face, that had been reported by his pediatrician, was not the result of abuse. The boy first told his pediatrician, “Mom hit me.” When the doctor asked if he had fallen and hit his eye, Vallejo-Seiber said “I fell.” Sieber told social workers that the child ran into a table or counter when Medoza’s dog came into the house. Later she said she was not at home when the abuse took place.6)
On August 23, 2005, Sieber witnessed Mendoza slapping her son on the back of he head, and broke up with him. She reconciled with Mendoza and returned to his home when he promised to be more affectionate with her son. Sieber left Vallejo-Seiber at Mendoza’s house on at least six occasions, including August 27, 2005.7)
Sieber later told investigators that she left her son with Mendoza, whom she’d known for three weeks, because she trouble finding someone to watch him while she worked as a dancer at a local nightclub. On August 27, 2006, she left the child in the care of Mendoza and Mendoza’s roommate, Richard Daniel Cox, 19, who.
On Augut 27, 2006, according to the CPS investigation narrative and trial testimony, Vallejo-Seiber was slapped, kicked, stomped, dropped on his head, burned, punched and sodomized by Mendoza on the night of August 27, 2006.8) He was hung by his arms, and forced to eat dog food and his own excrement.
An autopsy determined that Vallejo-Seiber suffered a lacerated liver and pancreas, a hemorrhaged diaphragm and kidneys, a fractured skull, broken ribs, and burns to his genitals and anus. 9)
Mendoza and Cox then left the injured boy on the floor, and went to a video store where they rented Coach Carter and a video game.10)
On August 28, 2005, Sieber and Mendoza brought Vallejo-Seiber to Riverside Community hospital. The child was not breathing. After he was necessitated, Vallejo-Seiber was transfered to Lorna Linda University Medical Center.11)
Vallejo-Seiber died while in surgery at Lorna Linda University Medical Center.12) Court documents show that he died as a result of a massive blow to the stomach, which lacerated his liver and caused internal bleeding.13)
At the preliminary trial for Mendoza and Cox, Sieber said that Mendoza was critical of her parenting, and called her son a “sissy.” Mendoza said he wanted to make a “soldier” of the boy, and at one point urged him to beat up his Elmo doll.14) Mendoza’s defense lawyer said, “He loved the child. He wanted to turn him into a little soldier.15)
Mendoza was arrested on August 28, after he and Sieber brought the child to Riverside Community hospital.16)
Sieber was arrested for endangering her son by leaving him in Mendoza’s care.
During questioning Cox first called Mendoza a “caring person” who was “there for” Vallejo-Seiber. Then he admitted having seen both Mendoza and Sieber disciplining the boy. Later, Cox admitted that “maybe” he disciplined the boy five or six times, including purposely tripping the child once.17)
Mendoza & the Death Penalty
On April 12 2006 Sieber, Cox and Mendoza entered not guilty pleas regarding the charges against them. Sieber pleaded not guilty to charges of child engangerment in connection with her son’s death. She was released after posting $15,000 bail. Cox was charged with murder, along with Mendoza, and both faced special circumstances of torture, making them eligible for the death penalty.18)
In August 2006, Judge Elisabeth Sichel ruled that there was sufficient evidence to try Mendoza for first degree murder in Vallejo-Seiber’s death.19)
In January 2007, the Riverside district attorney’s office announced that it would seek the death penalty in the case against Mendoza.20)
Mendoza is being held at the Robert Pressley Detention Center since August 28, 2005, the day he and Sieber brought Mikey Vallejo-Seiber to Riverside Community Hospital.21) He is scheduled to appear in Riverside County Superior Court on January 1, 2008.22)
Sieber Trial & Sentencing
On August 14, 2006 – two day after what would have been her son’s fourth birthday, was sentenced to six years in prison for failing to protect her him from Mendoza and Cox. She was four month’s pregnant at the time of her sentencing.23)
Cox: Trial & Sentencing
In February 2007, Judge Robert Spitzer granted a motion that Medoza and Cox be tried separately. At trial in February, Cox’s defense team said he failed to call police to report Mendoza’s abuse and torture of Vallejo-Seiber, and took refuge in his room24), because he was afraid of Mendoza. Forensic pathologist, Dr. Stephen Trinkle, also testified about the injuries he noted on Vallejo-Seiber’s head, face, arm, thigh, penis and anus during his posthumous examination of the victim.25) Trauma to the rectum indicated that Vallejo-Seiber had been sodomized.26)
On March 7, 2007, Cox was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison for his role in Vallejo-Seiber’s death.27)
In May 2007, the director of Riverside County’s Department of Public Social Services resigned. Cynthia Hinkley’s resignation came after an April 2007 letter from county social workers and union representatives saying that managers ignored suggested improvements in Child Protective Services, thus making Vallejo-Seiber’s death “inevitable.” In the wake of the letter, supervisors ordered a review of the department in response to complaints about the high turnover of social workers and managers.28)