BARSTOW • Police provided more details in a Barstow cold-case murder investigation Friday where a 3-year-old boy was allegedly beaten by his aunt because he ate a piece of leftover pizza without permission.
Lafayette Pettress, 57, and Duree Graves Pettress, 54, both of Fayetteville, N.C., were arrested Tuesday on murder charges stemming from the death of 3-year-old Tycoon Graves in 1995 in Barstow.
Tycoon woke up the morning of Dec. 7, 1995, and snuck a piece of leftover pizza, said Barstow Police Sgt. Andy Espinoza Sr. on Friday. Tycoon and his four siblings were living with their aunt — Duree — and uncle — Lafayette — because their mother was undergoing investigation for child cruelty charges. Duree found out about the pizza and began to beat Tycoon as discipline for eating the pizza. According to Espinoza, Lafayette was present at the time of the beating and did nothing to stop his wife — despite the pleas of Tycoon's older siblings.
Tycoon died from internal injuries — including a lacerated liver — at Barstow Community Hospital, said Espinoza.
Espinoza said he believed Tycoon died because Duree's discipline got out of control. The other siblings have said that there were other instances of abuse at the hands of their aunt and uncle when they were being disciplined.
The three older siblings were threatened by Lafayette to keep quiet about the incident, said Espinoza. Although Lafayette did not actually participate in the killing, he was present at the time and is considered an accomplice to the crime — which by state law means that he is also responsible for Tycoon's death.
The oldest sister, 9 at the time of the crime, confessed then to beating Tycoon, but later retracted her story, said Espinoza. Police did not have enough evidence to proceed further with the investigation until one of the girls came forward with the information this February. The other siblings confirmed the story, which led to the arrests on Tuesday in North Carolina.
Both Duree and Lafayette are fighting extradition to California, said Espinoza. Their next scheduled extradition hearing is expected on April 29.
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