BARSTOW • Two sisters of a Barstow toddler killed in 1995 testified in court Thursday describing the day their 3-year-old brother was beaten to death, allegedly at the hands of their aunt.
Duree Graves Pettress, 54, and her husband Lafayette Pettress, 57, are charged with the 1995 murder of three-year-old Tycoon Graves, who was beaten to death in Barstow.
Tycoon's death was originally thought to be at the hands of his oldest sister, Evelyn Graves, then 9, after she took the blame for beating him. The case was reopened when another sister, Jaquetta Graves, then 6, came forward to police in 2011, saying Duree was responsible for his death.
According to previous police reports, Tycoon snuck a piece of leftover pizza early Dec. 7, 1995. The five siblings were living with their aunt and uncle because their mother was being investigated for child cruelty charges. According to Det. Leo Griego's testimony, the children lived with the Pettresses since March 1995. Duree found out about the pizza and began to beat Tycoon to discipline him for eating the pizza while Lafayette did nothing to stop her. He was later pronounced dead at Barstow Community Hospital, dying from internal injuries.
In court, Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty showed pictures of Tycoon's badly beaten body taken the day of the event.
According to Daughtery, Jaquetta gave testimony describing her aunt and uncle as abusive for the year or so they lived with them. She said the Pettresses forced the children to stay awake all night and made the boys stand in the corner with hands in the air and standing on one foot.
The night before the incident, Duree and Lafayette ate pizza, but the children didn't eat any, she said. At around 6 a.m. Tycoon ate a piece, she said. When Duree found Tycoon with the pizza she grabbed him, pulled him into the bathroom and began stomping on him telling him to spit it out, Jaquetta said. She said Duree must have stomped him 20 or 30 times to her memory. She said her uncle did not stop Duree, though she saw him witness the event.
She said later that morning her uncle threatened the children, saying they would kill them if they told anybody about what happened.
Evelyn also testified Thursday saying she saw her aunt beating Tycoon in the bathroom. After the beating she said he felt cold so she got him a blanket, but he didn't respond.
She said she too was threatened by her uncle that morning, but also by her aunt. She said her aunt told her to take the blame for it, threatening that if she didn't, she would kill her. Evelyn said she was in fear for her life, as her aunt had already attempted to kill her before and had just killed her brother.
After the event the children were sent to separate foster homes. Evelyn said she remembers a while after she was living in the new home, she told the true story to someone.
Griego said about six months after Tycoon's death he was informed of Evelyn's story by a family counselor, but he didn't follow up on it because he had previous statements from Evelyn.
The Pettresses are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 29. If convicted each could face a maximum of 25 to life.
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