"No! No! Stop!"
The 3-year-old boy who cops say was beaten with a hairbrush and sodomized by the couple trusted with keeping him safe begged for his life with those desperate words in the final days before his death, remorseful neighbors said Sunday.
Related: Somber neighbors regret that they never spoke up
A picture emerged yesterday of a system that failed to protect little Kyle Smith despite warnings from his worried grandmother to police and social workers that he was being mistreated.
The case closely mirrors that of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown, who was found tortured to death in Brooklyn on Jan. 11, 2006, despite visits from social workers.
Kyle's legal guardian, Nymeen Cheatham, 30, and her boyfriend, Lemar Martin, 25, were arraigned Sunday on charges they delivered the fatal beating. Murder charges were pending a grand jury investigation, prosecutors said.
The case shocked neighbors, who described Martin as a churchgoer and a dog lover.
"He walks his dog all the time," neighbor Denise Gordon said of Martin. "He really catered and pampered that little Pekingese with love. It looks like he cared for that dog more than he cared for the child. How sick."
Kyle's bruised and cut body was found Friday in the apartment where he lived with the couple on Patchen Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The tot's death was preceded by at least two visits from cops and an interview with social workers from the Administration for Children's Services, police sources said.
The sources said cops went to the apartment Dec. 11 and Dec. 25 after receiving calls from Cheatham complaining that Kyle's biological father, Darien Smith, was not keeping visitation dates.
Residents of the building said Kyle's crack-addicted mother surrendered him to Cheatham about 18 months ago.
Cops who went to the apartment referred Cheatham to Family Court, the sources said. Kyle seemed happy on Christmas and was playing with toys, a police source said.
Then, on Jan. 2, Kyle's grandmother Norma Acosta, 45, called cops to complain that her son was being prevented from seeing Kyle. Police sources said she also told the ACSthat she thought her grandson was being mistreated.
Cops called the ACS, which interviewed Acosta, the sources said, noting that she then shared her concerns about abuse with the agency.
Sharman Stein, a spokeswoman for the city agency, said she was unable to confirm whether her agency interviewed Acosta.
A source familiar with the case said social workers went to the home last year to perform a court-ordered inspection when Cheatham sought custody. The source said the agency would have investigated if social workers detected abuse.
Cheatham and Martin were arraigned in Brooklyn Criminal Court Sunday on counts of second-degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Cheatham also was charged with criminal possession of a weapon.
"He didn't do it. She did," Martin's brother Jay said. "It's not in him to do something like that."
Prosecutors allege that Cheatham, who said she was Kyle's godmother, repeatedly struck him with her hands and a brush and put him in cold water. Martin grabbed Kyle by the arm, struck him and punished him by repeatedly "making him do pushups and march in place," court documents charge.
An autopsy revealed Kyle was beaten about his ears and face and had extreme injuries to his lips, mouth and buttocks, as well as cuts to the inner folds of his anus.
Residents said they saw emergency workers remove Kyle from the home and that he had severe rope burns on his ankle.
Spiro Ferris, Martin's attorney, said his client tried to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the tot and that Martin had seen Cheatham "discipline the child."
"My client has a lot of stress," Cheatham's attorney Joseph Miller said. "She loved that child."