A 21-year-old Lansing woman who said she was under the control of an abusive man was convicted
Friday of second-degree murder, child abuse and torture in her son’s death.
“It’s hard to imagine that my daughter would get involved in this because it’s just not like her — it’s not the Mercedes that I know,” Kemp’s father, Michael D. Kemp, said minutes after the verdict, as a family member wept nearby. “She was a young mom. But she was a good mom until she got involved with Marcus Hill.”
He was referring to Kemp’s former boyfriend, who also faces charges of murder, child abuse and torture in the death of 2-year-old Brandon Kemp. Hill, 25, is expected to stand trial at a later date.
In closing arguments Friday, Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Crino told jurors that Kemp acted “jointly” and “in lock-step” with Hill, assisting in a regimen of abuse designed to potty train Brandon.
“A beautiful, innocent, 2-year-old child was killed,” Crino said, “because of the brutal, vicious, selfish and childish actions of his own mother, Mercedes Kemp, and the man she brought into (her home).”
Kemp’s attorney, Stacia Buchanan, said Kemp was a victim of domestic violence, who had been “lured into a nightmare” and trapped by Hill.
“Marcus Hill was a controlling and abusive man (who) killed Brandon Kemp,” Buchanan told jurors. “The facts don’t show (Kemp) did anything…other than be a victim herself.”
Crino said — at a minimum — Kemp aided and abetted Hill, which meant she was just as guilty.
One of Kemp’s best friends, Crino said, testified that she saw Kemp beat her daughter with a belt for wetting the bed as she talked to Hill on the phone.
Kemp and Hill met in the summer of 2011. By November of that year, Hill, who Kemp knew had recently served jail time for felonious assault, moved into her Lansing apartment with Brandon and her then-3-year-old daughter. He sold drugs and smoked marijuana constantly, prosecutors said.
Soon after, according to Kemp’s testimony, Hill became abusive and controlling. Kemp said Hill began targeting Brandon for beatings with a black leather belt.
Among the injuries found on Brandon’s body, Crino said, was an apparent cigarette burn on his neck as well as evidence that something had been wrapped around his genitals.
Kemp, who testified in her own defense, said she didn’t know how those injuries happened.
On April 30, Kemp said Hill beat Brandon so badly, the boy stopped breathing. He already was dead, with a body temperature of 91 degrees, when Kemp carried him into the McLaren Greater Lansing emergency room.
Brandon’s face, legs, arms, chest and back were covered with bruises.
He had been beaten so badly his liver had split into three pieces, his heart was bruised and there was hemorrhaging in his spinal cord
, Crino said.
Three weeks earlier, Child Protective Services workers visited the house, but Kemp told them everything was fine, and they left without taking action. She also admitted lying to her family.
Kemp’s daughter is now in foster care, and Michael Kemp said he and his wife intend to adopt her. A doctor testified that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Crino said Kemp knew that Brandon wasn’t potty trained, knew wetting himself would trigger abuse — yet there were no diapers in the house.
“Not only did she serve up that child to (Hill),” Crino said. “She did it knowing that abuse was going to occur.”