<strong>Brandon Williams</strong>, 5, died Wednesday, possibly from an overdose of cold medicine given to him by his mother.
The grandmother of the 5-year-old Tucson boy who died around midnight Wednesday of suspected child abuse is struggling to accept that he is gone.
On Friday morning, Mae West, 59, still spoke of little Brandon Williams in the present tense.
“Brandon’s smart,” she said. “He knows a lot.”
Brandon died, authorities said, after his mother gave him 12 Tylenol PM tablets Wednesday evening.
Brandon was autistic. His mother told detectives she bound his wrists and ankles and immersed his feet in scalding water to discipline him, authorities said.
West said Brandon wasn’t difficult to care for.
She said he attended a child-care center on Prince Road and was excited about starting kindergarten in the fall.
Occasionally, she said, “he would have tantrums and beat his head on the floor.”
She handled the boy’s tantrums with a gentle touch, she said.
“I sit on the floor, and I hold him in my lap, and he’ll calm down,” she said.
Boy ‘didn’t have to die’
Brandon Williams’ favorite stuffed animals are sitting on the couch in Grandma Mae’s living room, poised to play.
“He shouldn’t be dead right now,” said Brandon’s grandmother, Mae West. “Brandon didn’t have to die. They could have given him to us.”
Brandon was a bright, talkative child who loved his family, West said, including his father and her son, Melvin Williams, 41; her other son, Paul West, 28, of Tucson; and her daughter, Paula West, 37, of California.
The 59-year-old grandmother said her only grandchild loved the movie “Babe,” along with Porky Pig cartoons, and liked to make “the pig noise.”
“He said he wants to be a baseball player when he gets bigger,” she said Friday.
Brandon’s mother, Diane L. Marsh, 39, is in the Pima County Jail on $1 million bond, charged with first-degree murder and four counts of child abuse. Also charged in the boy’s death are two adults who lived with Marsh: Flower Tompson, 27, with four counts of child abuse, and Mark Lee Moss, 47, with three counts of failure to report child abuse.
Brandon was diagnosed with autism in February 2003, said West, a nurse’s aide.
He was on daily medication to control the symptoms of his autism, she said, and she gave him “half a pill” each day when she cared for him in her home, which he visited regularly until last September.
Marsh and Williams wed in 1999. Brandon was their only son. Marsh has two sons from a previous marriage, ages 15 and 17.
In March 1995, Marsh was found guilty of endangering the life or health of a minor, according to Tucson Municipal Court records. Records did not indicate whether she pleaded guilty or was tried by a jury, nor did they identify the victim. The charge was filed Jan. 12, 1995.
Records indicate she provided the court with proof she had received some type of counseling, as the court ordered.
In 2005, Williams lost his patience with the younger of his two stepsons, then 13, and choked him during a dispute, according to court records.
According to court documents, the boy was also autistic and on probation in a juvenile court case. Other details could not be determined because the records are sealed.
Marsh told Pretrial Services workers at the time that Williams “lacked patience” with her younger son and had difficulty controlling his anger.
Child Protective Services workers were investigating the family in an “open case,” court records show.
Williams was sentenced to four years of probation after he pleaded guilty to one count of felony child abuse. He was ordered not to return to the family home and to have no contact with the stepson.
Court records say he completed counseling sessions for anger management in 2005 and his compliance with the court was “excellent.”
Williams, a former Marine who grew up in Eloy, works as a landscaper, West said. He bought a cell phone for Marsh so Brandon could stay in touch with him and his grandmother.
On Aug. 29, Marsh’s oldest son, then 16, grabbed Brandon by the face and was arrested on suspicion of assaulting Brandon, authorities said Thursday.
As a result, Marsh’s two older sons were removed from the home by CPS. Brandon remained with his mother.
West said Marsh stopped returning calls in September. West said she had never been told about the August incident.
She said that she left it up to her son Melvin to try to locate Brandon when they lost contact in September but that he hadn’t been able to find him.
In December, the home in the 1000 block of West Wheatridge Drive where Marsh and Brandon lived caught fire, and an insurance company placed them in a home in the 5500 block of North Silver Stream Way until the burned home could be repaired, authorities said. The fire was not of suspicious origin.
Pima County sheriff’s detectives said Thursday that Brandon may have suffered abuse and neglect since December.
West wonders how a parent could do to a helpless child what authorities say Marsh had admitted, including placing his feet in scalding water.
“How stupid can you be to hurt an innocent kid?” West said. “Didn’t you hear a little kid screaming?”
A Pima County Juvenile Court case involving Brandon Williams was initiated Jan. 19.
The case is a dependency matter before the court’s Department of Children and Family Services. Dependency cases are those in which a determination is sought on whether a child should be made a ward of the state.
West said if anyone had asked her, she would have said she would raise the boy.
“CPS could have taken Brandon out. What were they waiting for? They didn’t do nothing to help the kid.”
'How stupid can you be to hurt an innocent kid? Didn't you hear a little kid screaming?'
- MAE WEST, 59, on the death of her grandson, Brandon Williams, 5
What: Prayer vigil for Brandon Williams, 5; Ariana Payne, 4; and Tyler Payne, 5.
Christopher Payne has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in his children’s deaths. Ariana’s body was found Feb. 18. Tyler’s has not been found.
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Palo Verde Baptist Church, 2151 N. Palo Verde Blvd.
Donations in Brandon’s memory to Homicide Survivors, 32 N. Stone Ave., Suite 1408, Tucson, AZ 85701 will be used to assist children in crisis.