Prosecutor says Child's Body Tells Story of Death

By  | 

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - A Cobb County prosecutor told a jury Tuesday that an eight-year-old was beaten by his parents, locked inside a wooden box and forced to stay in a closet for hours at a time before he finally died in October 2003.

Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Dixon told the jury that Josef Smith's body will tell the story about his death.

As the trial of the boy's parents -- Joseph and Sonya Smith began -- Dixon said the boy was beaten repeatedly until he finally died.

Defense attorney Manny Aurora warned the jurors that they would see gruesome photographs. But he said the boy did not die of the injuries depicted. Aurora said there was evidence that the child died from a head injury caused by a fall, but the medical examiner to not perform crucial tests that would have shown that.

Emergency personnel went to the home in Mableton in October 2003 after a report of an unresponsive Josef, who later died at a children's hospital.

The parents are charged with murder, cruelty to children, aggravated assault and false imprisonment, according to a 14-count indictment in June.

Testimony is to begin Wednesday.

The Smiths are members of the Franklin, Tennessee-based Remnant Fellowship Church, which grew out of church leader Gwen Shamblin's Weigh Down Workshop, a Christian diet program she created in 1986.
Authorities raided the church in June 2004 as part of the
investigation of Josef Smith's death.

Former Remnant members have suggested to investigators and reporters that church teachings on discipline include corporal punishment. Shamblin previously said the church leaves discipline to parents but believes in spankings as a last report. She also said critics fooled former Remnant members into believing they were part of a cult.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)