Investigators believe Gloria Nelligan beat her 8-year-old grandson Sha’hiim Nelligan to death after becoming upset that he had stolen a pack of gum from a nearby shop, an official familiar with the case said.
The boy apparently took the gum earlier in the week and his grandmother found out. She then took him back to the store and made him apologize, the source said. Nelligan, though, didn’t leave it at that, the official said, and her anger spilled over Friday.
Schenectady police would not comment on what precipitated the Friday incident, however, in the hopes of keeping outside accounts from tarnishing witness interviews, said police Lt. Mark McCracken.
Nelligan is facing one count of first-degree manslaughter. Court papers indicate the charge is based on statements from Nelligan as well as statements of witnesses and the police investigation. Witnesses told police Sha’hiim was conscious sometime in the morning hours Saturday, but he was found later that morning unresponsive by family members inside the Mynderse Street home.
The call to police came in shortly after 10 a.m. The boy was treated on the scene by members of the Schenectady Fire Department and then transported to Ellis Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
An autopsy on the boy pointed to homicide, police said, although official results have not yet come back.
But friends of the family and community members remain in disbelief that Nelligan, the boy’s legal guardian since the age of 2, could have beaten Sha’hiim, if for no other reason than her physical condition.
“She can barely walk,” said Judy Atchinson, executive director of after-school arts program Quest. “I don’t believe she did this. I don’t see how it’s possible given the physical state she’s in. She is hardly able to walk and very ill, physically.”
Nelligan had heart and breathing problems and a bad knee, she said. In court Monday, Nelligan mentioned taking regular prescription medication.
McCracken said the department wouldn’t comment on whether anyone else was interviewed as a suspect.
“I can just tell you that after reviewing all the facts, the detectives were quite confident in who they charged,” he said. “And they charged the individual who they felt was responsible for Sha’hiim’s death.”
Sha’hiim lived with Nelligan and her three children, Leahcima Phillips, Monae Parson and Amelia Matrazzoages. He is survived by his parents, Keila Nelligan and Shurone Wideman, his uncle DC Dunkel, and two brothers, Victorious and King, according to an obituary in today’s Gazette.
He was a member of Schenectady Pilgrim Holiness Church in Schenectady, where his funeral will be held at noon Saturday. There will be a visitation hour beginning at 11 a.m. at the church, located at 2105 Curry Road. Interment will be in Park View Cemetery in Schenectady.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be forwarded to Schenectady Pilgrim Holiness Church, 2105 Curry Road, Schenectady, 12303. To leave the family an online condolence, visit www.sbfuneralhome.com.