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Woman pleads guilty in beating death of 3-year-old stepson in Roxbury

Maria Buie pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and received a sentence of nine to 12 years.
Maria Buie pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and received a sentence of nine to 12 years.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff

Ashley Young wept Friday when she confronted the woman who beat her 3-year-old son to death in 2016 in Roxbury, in a crime that shocked the city and tore a family apart.

Young spoke directly to the perpetrator, Maria Buie, 28, from the witness stand in Suffolk Superior Court, where Buie, the boy’s stepmother, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of Young’s child, Kenai Whyte.

Buie received a prison term of nine to 12 years under the terms of a plea deal; she was previously indicted on a second-degree-murder charge in the case.

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“Kenai was so sweet, kind, gentle, [a] happy little boy,” Young said, later struggling to recount the day of his funeral, when she watched as he was “lowered into a 6-foot hole . . . alone.”

“I could never forgive you for what you have done,” Young told Buie, who sat quietly next to her lawyer during the hearing, which was packed with the slain toddler’s relatives, including one woman who wore a shirt that said Team Kenai. “God has him now, and you need to do some serious time for your actions.”

Buie, Young added, “killed an innocent human being.”

Prior to Young’s statement, Assistant District Attorney Craig Iannini addressed the court and said Young had split custody of Kenai with the boy’s father, who was married to Buie at the time of the child’s death.

Kenai was with Buie in the father’s Alpine Street home when Buie “did assault and beat” the child, leaving him with severe injuries including bruising on his head, retinal bleeding, contusions, and a fractured vertebra in his neck, Iannini said. Kenai succumbed to his injuries on Feb. 2, 2016.

Iannini did not disclose a motive for the attack.

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After he recited the facts, Judge Douglas Wilkins asked Buie, “Did you do those acts?’

“Yes,” Buie replied softly.

Wilkins also heard from Kenai’s grandmother, Debra Morris-Covington, before formally imposing the sentence.

“He was my best buddy,” Morris-Covington said of Kenai. “You robbed me of that.”

She said she has struggled to sleep since her grandson was killed and has also had difficulty communicating with her husband in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“Our family has been ripped apart,” she said. “He was the focus of my life, and you have left a void that can never be filled.” Morris-Covington said she watched Buie “grin, laugh, smile” at prior court hearings, which was wrenching, knowing that she’d never see Kenai’s smile again.

At the same time, Morris-Covington said, she must forgive Buie because she is “the mother of my granddaughter.” She urged Buie to take anger management classes and get psychological counseling while incarcerated, so she can “be a productive member of society” when she’s released.

“We all make mistakes, and we all need second chances, so please take this second chance,” Morris-Covington said. “God have mercy on you.”

Buie, who’s currently on medication for bipolar disorder, declined to address the court, but her lawyer, Christopher Belezos, told Wilkins that “Ms. Buie is very emotional” and wishes to “express her regret” to everyone affected by the tragedy.

He told reporters outside the courtroom that his client has “accepted responsibility” and “made her apologies to all the parties involved. . . . You can imagine the emotions involved here.” Belezos declined to say whether Buie is still married to Kenai’s father.

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Buie will receive credit toward her sentence for the 840 days she spent in jail while the case was pending.


Andy Rosen and Evan Allen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.