Vol. 19,  No.  3 Feb. 9 - 22, 2006


Quiet Farewell to Quachaun


Neighbors, friends of the family, and acquaintances streamed into McKeon Funeral Home Tuesday night to say goodbye to Quachaun Brown, the 4-year-old whose death shocked the city just as it was suffering through the aftermath of Nixmary Brown’s death two weeks earlier.

As television news trucks with towering satellite dishes lined Perry Avenue in Norwood Monday night and photographers were corralled behind a rope line waiting for the expected arrival of Quachaun’s grandmother, those who knew the boy, and some who didn’t, sat quietly in the large, warmly-lit room in rows facing his coffin. A few quietly approached the coffin — where Quachaun lay in a bright white tuxedo, his serene face framed by a white knit cap — and knelt. His right hand clutched a Bible. A mountain of teddy bears and stuffed animals spilled out of the lower part of the coffin where an adult’s legs would have been.

Quachaun allegedly died at the hands of his mother’s 18-year-old boyfriend, Jose Calderon, after a violent weekend in their Kossuth Avenue apartment where the boy suffered a fractured skull and a lacerated spleen and pancreas. Calderon is accused of beating Quachaun after the boy knocked over his flat screen TV. A bitter irony is that the apartment building is directly across the street from North Central Bronx Hospital and steps from Montefiore.

Paramedics determined Quachaun had been dead for hours when they arrived at the apartment early Monday morning.

Calderon has been charged with murder and Aleishia Smith, Quachaun’s mother, with manslaughter for failing to get medical help for her son. Smith is the mother of five other children, one of whom lived with her mother. She had the children with four different men.

Caseworkers from the city’s Administration for Children Services had been inside the home four times since November. Neighbors and friends frequently babysat and provided meals but there were fewer visitors to the apartment when Smith took up with Calderon.

At the wake, Anthony Randolph, a neighbor and close friend of the family who handled the details of the wake and funeral services (which were donated by McKeon Funeral Home and Woodlawn Cemetery), sat in a quiet room off the lobby for an interview with the Norwood News. In introducing himself, Randolph said he was treated unfairly in a recent Daily News story that reported that he was a convicted sex offender who was not permitted to spend unsupervised time with children. Randolph was convicted in 1992 of molesting two teenage boys, according to the state’s on-line sex offender registry. But according to the State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, he completed parole in 1999 and is no longer barred from contact with children. He now works as a medical assistant.

With a quiet resolve, Randolph described Smith, the boy’s mother, as a good person who was overwhelmed caring for her six children in a one-bedroom apartment. He said he wished she had gotten more help. Randolph said he remembered the time an ACS worker came by to show her a parenting video. But he said she needed much more than that, and listed food, clothes and parenting classes as examples.

Randolph said he resented those in the community who blamed the family and others for what happened. “If you knew there was neglect in that home and you didn’t call ACS, you’re just as guilty as he [Calderon] is,” Randolph said. “[If you knew they were hungry and] you didn’t go home and cook and bring them food, you’re just as guilty as he is.”

“Peaches needed help and help wasn’t given to her,” Randolph added, using Aleishia’s nickname. “Sometimes we can’t look to ACS to always be there. We as a community have to be there.”

Randolph, who frequently brought the family food and called ACS five times himself, said he last went by the apartment on the Friday before Quachaun’s death but did not see him there.

As for why Smith didn’t seek help for her child, Randolph said, “I know Peaches. Peaches had to be scared [of Calderon] or intimidated [not to take Quachaun to a doctor]. That was her only son. They had a love affair.”

As for Quachaun, Randolph echoed many who had interacted with the boy many called Tibbers because of his fascination with Tigger. “He had a smile that would warm your heart,” Randolph said. “He had a twinkle in his eyes.”

Randolph said Quachaun’s grandmother, who would sometimes take care of two of the children at a time at her home, would now try to get custody of all five of her daughter’s remaining children.

“They [the children] should be together,” Randolph said. “They’ve been through enough sorrow in their lives. She’s been the only constant, stable force in their lives.”

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