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Judge says 'I may go vomit' upon review of 4-year-old's death

NORFOLK, Virginia¬†(WAVY) - A Norfolk, Virginia woman and her 14-year-old son are under investigation after a small child died while in their care, officials say.

The investigation into Catherine Seals and her teenage son began in November after 4-year-old Larkin Carter Carr died at the Children's Hospital of the Kings Daughters. 

Larkin was being watched by Seals' 14-year-old son on Nov. 12 when he called his mother and said that the 4-year-old was unresponsive. Doctors who treated Larkin noticed that the boy's body was covered in bruises and that he had a black eye, according to documents obtained by WAVY.

Larkin died at the hospital that day. An autopsy was done two days later, and it revealed that Larkin suffered from blunt-force trauma to the head and abdomen and that his body was covered with between 70 and 90 bruises, said Norfolk prosecutor Jill Harris.

On Nov. 9 — the Friday before Larkin died — Seals left the 4-year-old home alone with her teenage son. The teenager later admitted to police that during that time he slammed a chair into Larkin's stomach, held the little boy down, and repeatedly punched him, Harris said.

That weekend Larkin was very sick. He stayed in his bedroom all weekend, vomiting up brown and black matter, but no one took him to the hospital, Harris said. 

The medical examiner is still reviewing the autopsy to determine his cause of death. 

Seals is charged with two counts of child abuse and neglect, and her teenage son is charged with strangulation, but neither face charges for Larkin's death. The felony charges stem from incidents that happened involving Larkin and his 3-year-old brother, Tyler, between July and November 2018, Harris said.

Larkin and Tyler were in foster care when they moved to Norfolk in July to live with their father on a trial basis. Their dad was engaged to Seals. The couple lived together with Seals' teenage son and her 1-year-old daughter.

Larkin's November arrival at CHKD was his second trip to the hospital since September 2018. At that time, Larkin and Tyler were seen by doctors after they were injured during a strangulation incident that allegedly involved Seals' 14-year-old son, Harris said.

At the time of that incident, the boys' father and Seals' teenage son told officials that Tyler and Larkin harmed each other, although their injuries were not consistent with the type of harm children of their ages could inflict on one another, Harris said.

Prosecutors believe that Seals' teenage son repeatedly abused the boys -- pushing them, making them hang by pull-up bars, controlling them, and taking away their toys, Harris said.

According to Harris, the teenager punished Larkin, and said the 4-year-old endured "repeated beatings every other day." Harris said that Seals knew about the abuse but did not stop it.

During a Wednesday bond hearing, Seals' attorney argued that the 35-year-old woman wasn't home when the alleged incidents happened and that she called emergency medical services as soon as her teenager said that Larkin was unresponsive.

Judge Lauri D. Hogge denied Seals' bond, saying that she was "speechless" after seeing pictures of Larkin and hearing the details of his abuse.

"I may go vomit," Hogge said.

Larkin and Tyler's mother, Tracey Quinones of Harrisonburg, said that she noticed the bruises covering her sons during one of their visits months ago and that she took pictures of the boys and sent the information to Norfolk Child Protective Services.

She does not know if the agency followed up on her report.

"They're supposed to protect your children from situations like this," Quinones said. "I feel like they failed my son and they failed his family."

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