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Homeless man pleads guilty in death of his infant son

August 13, 2009 |  6:53 pm

A homeless man accused of killing his 3-month-old son just weeks after Los Angeles County social workers at a skid row shelter decided he could care for the infant pleaded guilty Thursday to child abuse, authorities said.

The November 2005 death of Mikeal Wah-hab III led to sweeping changes in the way social workers deal with homeless children, including a revamped squad of county officials who search out and assess children living on skid row.

Mikeal’s lifeless body was discovered in a Monterey Park motel room where county social workers had taken the father and child to live temporarily. Coroner’s officials concluded that the boy had been killed by a head injury consistent with shaking.

Just weeks earlier, the boy’s father, Mikeal Wah-hab Sr., had carried his son into the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles and told the shelter’s staff that his wife had abandoned them.

County social workers interviewed Wah-hab at the mission but did not check whether he had a record of child abuse or neglect. In fact, the county had removed the couple’s previous son in 2002 after the newborn tested positive for drugs.

Mikeal’s mother has had at least 11 children removed from her care. The day after Mikeal’s body was discovered, his mother was arrested for possession of crack cocaine and sentenced to three years in prison. Authorities have said they do not consider her a suspect in the boy’s death.

Wah-hab, 51, was arrested and charged last year, two months after a Times article highlighted the unsolved death along with the efforts by Supervisor Gloria Molina to press detectives and prosecutors to resolve the case.

After Thursday’s guilty plea, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner sentenced Wah-hab to 10 years in prison, according to a district attorney’s spokeswoman.

—Jack Leonard

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