Teresa Moses (left) and Raijon Daniels
Teresa Moses (left) and Raijon Daniels
RICHMOND — Police detectives probing the death of an 8-year-old boy last weekend say his mother likely tortured him for more than a year in a dark dungeon of a bedroom before he swallowed household cleaner Friday and died.

Richmond detectives arrested the boy's mother, 23-year-old Teresa Moses, on suspicion of murder, torture and child endangerment Friday night after staff at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center called about the death.

Welts and bruises in various stages of healing covered Raijon Daniels' little body, encased in a neck brace with a tube protruding from his mouth. The injuries told a long, horrible story of abuse: rope marks on his limbs, chemical burns, bed sores.

Reports of Raijon's problems at home had crossed the desk of social workers at Contra Costa's Children and & Family Services at least three times since May 2005, records show. In each case, he went home to his mother in south Richmond.

"It's just horrific what this child went through," Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan said Monday. "This is probably the most horrifying instance of child abuse that Richmond has seenin years."

Moses called 911 about 5:15 p.m. Friday to report the emergency. Paramedics could not revive him.

The Contra Costa coroner's office has not determined what killed Raijon because toxicology tests have not been completed. Regardless, police say Moses' actions Friday directly led to an excruciating death.


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"It appears he was held hostage in the residence to prevent his escape," Richmond homicide Detective Eric Smith said Monday. "This kid was treated worse than a dog."

Duct tape secured Raijon's sheets and covers to his bed when patrol officers entered the family's apartment Friday in the Monterey Pines apartment complex. His window was locked, and his door had a lock on the outside. The only other furniture in the room was a small table where a camera for a baby monitor sat.

Raijon spent much of his time locked in the bedroom, watched through the monitor by his mother, police said.

"He spent a good portion of the day in that room, every day. He rarely went outside, and then he was supervised by his mother," Smith said. "He was allowed one bathroom break at night."

Raijon apparently frequently went to the bathroom on himself and in his room, Detective Sgt. Mitch Peixoto said. His mother viewed the behavior as resistance.

"She said whenever she would get back from work, he would defecate on himself. She thought he was doing mind games with her," Peixoto said. "I think he did it because he was scared whenever she came home."

A pine-scented cloud of toxic vapor greeted police at the apartment Friday.

"When I entered the apartment, it literally burned my eyes. We were met with fumes — strong fumes — throughout the apartment," said police Lt. Enos Johnson, who supervised Friday's patrol shift. "It was horrifying to think that a child lived in that environment, had to sleep in an environment with open containers of" a household cleaner.

Moses told detectives Friday night that she had poured the caustic contents of one container on her son's genitals earlier in the day to discourage him from urinating on himself.

A family friend was leaving the apartment with Moses' 3-year-old daughter as police arrived. The girl is now in protective custody and does not appear to have been a victim of abuse, police said.

Further investigation turned up copious vomit in the bathroom and Raijon's bedroom and empty containers of cleaner. Police also found Raijon's dinner: a pile of brown goo in a blender and in a cup, which Moses told police was beans and spaghetti.

She said Raijon could not have solid food because he threw it. Soon after 5 p.m., after serving him dinner and locking him in his bedroom, she noticed on the baby monitor that Raijon had sat up and was "doing a Stevie Wonder," in her words, Peixoto said. When she went to check on him, she found him frothing at the mouth and unresponsive.

While police never previously arrested Moses on suspicion of a crime, they encountered Raijon several times since May 2005. Each encounter resulted in a referral to county Children & Family Services.

"Whenever we hear about anything like this, it hurts us to our core," said Lynn Yaney, spokeswoman for CFS. "But because of confidentiality laws, we can't discuss anything about specific cases."

In March 2005, Moses called Richmond police to report her suspicion that a former family member had molested Raijon. Detectives investigated but found no evidence. In fact, police said, Moses did not return calls and refused to put police in touch with a witness she cited in her report, according to police reports.

The Contra Costa district attorney's office reviewed the case in August 2005 and did not file charges, citing insufficient evidence, records show.

In April and May 2005, Moses sent letters to King Elementary School, where Raijon attended at the time, complaining that he received cafeteria lunches and other food. She wrote in April that Raijon had special dietary needs and asked that he not be provided with food.

The same month, the West Contra Costa school district contacted CFS with concerns about Raijon's behavior and diet, police sources said. A social worker completed a phone investigation of the situation but took no action.

In July, a patron of a fast-food restaurant on San Pablo Dam Road in San Pablo called police because a boy had been playing unattended on the restaurant's jungle gym for two hours. Records show Raijon told the officer he ran away from home because his babysitter used handcuffs on him.

The officer saw no injuries on him, and he denied that his mother abused him, police said, so the officer took him home to his mother. The officer wrote a report, which he forwarded to CFS for investigation. A social worker again completed a phone investigation without action, police said. Raijon again ran away from home Nov. 23, records show, by jumping out the window of his second-floor apartment about 8 a.m. His mother reported him missing about 10 a.m.

Staff writers Kimberly S. Wetzel, Bruce Gerstman and John Simerman contributed to this article.