Miami-Dade County

Judge denies bond for North Miami Beach man in baby killing

The North Miami Beach man accused of fatally beating 2-year-old Ezra Raphael with a belt will not be released from jail on bond, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision was expected. Claude Alexis, 32, is accused of aggravated child abuse and first-degree murder, a charge that does not allow for an initial bond.

“I loved that boy,” Alexis told the judge.

Police say he confessed to fatally beating Ezra, the son of his girlfriend, Cierrah Raphael, 22. She is charged with child neglect, and was granted a $7,500 bond on Wednesday.

Alexis appeared before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rodney Smith, via closed-circuit television. He wore a padded jumpsuit given to inmates who may pose a risk to themselves.

Paramedics on late Thursday night were called to the Alexis’ North Miami Beach home, where he had been taking care of the boy. The call: a “sick and unresponsive child.”

When paramedics arrived, police said, they found Ezra unconscious on the dining room floor. The toddler died shortly after he arrived at Jackson North Medical Center.

An autopsy showed that Ezra had sustained trauma to his back and body, and the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the boy’s death was a homicide, police said.

According to an arrest report, police officers on Tuesday found Alexis waiting outside the North Miami Beach police station. Unable to sleep, Alexis told Detective Michael Stein, he had walked to the police station.

Alexis, after waiving his right to remain silent, admitted he had gotten angry with Ezra after the boy had apparently turned on a faucet in the bathroom and got water “all over.”

The man admitted hitting the child “with a belt” and said “he did not mean for this to happen,” according to Stein’s arrest report.

Ezra’s death is already drawing scrutiny on Florida’s Department of Children and Families, which in February received a report that the boy was abandoned with a virtual stranger in Gainesville. The department learned the mother, who had been working as a prostitute, had left the boy with a woman she barely knew.

“Risk is high,” a report said, because Raphael, who was a former foster child herself, already had permanently lost custody of an older child because she was deemed unfit as a mother.

Yet, DCF closed the investigation 20 days later, without taking any action to protect the child.

Ezra’s death comes at one of the most troubling times in the agency’s history: Since May 16, at least four small children who had come to the attention of the agency have died in South Florida under tragic circumstances.

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