Robert Byrd
June 2006 - May 2011
Found dead on May 8, 2011, though date of death is not clear.
Find A Grave Memorial

A picture of a woman, looking sad was the first thing I found when I looked for information about a child who had
been tortured and starved to death. The picture was of his aunt, standing in court to face charges that SHE and her husband had tortured, beaten and starved to death, Robert Byrd, a four year old child. In court, the charges against the couple were read out loud, murder, torture and child abuse. It was said that if they were found to be guilty of these charges, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison. As many years as I have been making pages to honor children who were abused to death, RARELY has anyone been sentenced to life and it really means they will never leave prison alive. Asked if she understood the charges against her, Matilda Gardner said:

"Yes, but I didn't do anything"

REALLY? Randy Gardner, who was 32 at that time and Matilda Brown Gardner, who was 30 at the time were
being held without bond after police found Robert's emaciated and bruised body and removed it from their home
on Mother's day, 2011:

"They had a torture chamber, had this baby in a room for days in the dark beating him from sun up
to sunset, not feeding him"
Erica Sheperd - Robert's Godmother

"She's been telling everybody she was tired and tired and couldn't it any more.
Why didn't you go to somebody in the family that wanted that little boy. She
moved three times to avoid the system. The system failed here"
Percy Baker - Godmother Of Robert's Brother

Matilda is reported to have been a very violent woman and at one point a neighbor to her sister filed a personal
protection order against him due to having been assaulted by her. Family said that Matilda had isolated herself, her children and her nephews who she was raising due to the death of their mother and their father being in prison. Connie Brown, who is Matilda's sister, was the only person who had contact with the family, which consisted of Matilda, Randy and five boys between the ages of four and ten. Connie said that would baby sit at times and that in March, all of the children, including Robert, were fine:

"The family is completely done with both of them. We are done"
Connie

The Mayor was in shock by what happened:

"Someone had to know that this abuse was going on. This is the worse I've seen in 31 years of
police service"
Hubert Yopp - Highland Park Mayor

After Robert was taken to the hospital, the police were called in for a possible case of child abuse. Police went
to the home and since no one was there, they got a search warrant:

"The first thing that hit us was the smell of bleach and we could tell that the place had been
cleaned
and mopped"
Det. Sgt. Brenda Perkins

Finding evidence that  a crime had been committed, along with marks on Robert's body, the police would take
Robert and Matilda into custody. Though
Matilda didn't "do anything", the medical examiners office said that Robert died of starvation and neglected and said his death was a homicide. Robert was only three feet one inch tall and weighed on 24 pounds at the age of four. Detective Sgt. Brenda Perkins stated that Robert had a burn on his leg and was bruised from head to toe. Robert also had marks around his wrist which were evidence that he had been tied up. Of the five children living in the home, Robert seemed to be the only one who was treated this
way:

"The child in this case suffered unspeakable acts that led to his death. The evidence in this case
will
show that the charged defendants are responsible for those acts. It's ironic that this happened
on a
day we recognize and celebrate mothers across the nation"
Kym Worthy - Wayne County Prosecutor

"They starved my son. They kept changing addresses and phone numbers and wouldn't let me see
my
sons. I was trying to be an adult about it, but they kept playing me"
Anthony Byrd - Robert's Biological Father

In 2009, Anthony had gone to prison for felonious assault and was not given custody of his two sons when he got out of prison after nine months. Robert's mother, Theresa Brown, had died in 2007 of a brain aneurysm.

"Nobody knew what was going on there"
Michelle Burnett - Robert's Aunt

During interviews with the couple, Highland Park Detective Paul Thomas said that each of the two had been
interviewed separately and each gave voluntary statements. When asked what kind of child Robert was the two
had this to say:

"He was good just like any other kid. He was not bad at all."
Matilda

He was good but he was hurt because his
dad gave up on him"
Randy

When questioned later, Matilda would blame everything on Randy saying that he would the children with extension cords, though he gave the worst of it to Robert when he would have accidents:

"I would stand in the middle of them. Randy would then fight"

Matilda and Randy both claimed that Robert was fed along with the other children and just as much.

Dr. Carl Schmidt, the Wayne County Medical Examiners Chief Pathologist testified in court that Robert had died of starvation and his body had suffered skin erosions and bruises over almost 90% of his body. Robert also suffered from malnutrition and neglect with injuries that showed he had likely been beaten and tied up over time. Robert had chemical burns on his body from sitting in his own feces and urine and there were dark patches on his skin that were consistent with darkening of his skin known as hyper pigmentation:

"I don't think he was bathed with an regularity"
Carl Schmidt
The remaining four children were taken out of the home.

In March of 2012, Randy Gardner plead guilty, in front of Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway, to torture, child abuse and second degree murder. A plea deal had been made that would give him a sentence of at least 30 years and up to 60 years. The same offer was given to Matilda and she did not accept and was set to stand trial in May of 2012.

Connie Brown stated that she and her family were happy with the plea off and grateful for the work that had been
done on this case:

"I just don't think she has any choice but to accept the plea deal. Our first concern was with the
welfare
of the rest of the children. After that it was clear that they were going to have to go to prison.
I think the
family just wants this to be over"

Almost a year later, Robert's stepmother had this to say:

"We just want justice to be served so we can put back the pieces, but it will never be
100 percent complete"

LaQuiana Burnette

In April of 2012, Anthony Byrd was in court for the sentencing of Randy S Gardner and spoke to Judge Cynthia
Gray Hathaway.:

"Why did he have to out like that"

Randy was sentenced to 30 to 60 years for second degree murder with an additional 10 to 15 years for torture and another 10 to 15 years for first degree child abuse with the sentences to run concurrently. Randy had the nerve to say:

"Robert was thin and he was little and I only disciplined him when it was needed"

Randy said that his sister-in-law had told his wife that if anything happened to her, she wanted her to raise her
children because she liked the way she took care of her own.


Lora Weingarden asked the court to follow the guidelines when sentencing Randy:

"No child should die in such an inhumane, uncivilized way. The defendant was caring for six
boys, four biological, and none of those boy, only two, Robert and Anthony, were abused.
He systematically and purposely treated those kids horribly"

Lora Weingarden - Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor

Judge Cynthia Hathaway said she did not understand how nobody saw the signs of abuse Robert suffered:

"Anybody with normal eyesight should see this child was injured. It's not a 12 or 13 year old boy,
 it's a
baby and somebody did something to this baby and nobody wants to stand up for it"

In May of 2012, Matilda Gardner was found guilty of felony murder, second degree murder, torture and first degree child abuse. Facing life without parole, Matilda would be sentenced in June of 2012. Let's hope and pray that justice is REALLY served in her sentence and that she never gets out of prison.

UPDATE:

In June of 2012 Matilda Gardner was sentenced to life without parole 
for killing Robert. (YES, that's how it should be for all child abusers who kill their victim)

Return To Robert's Story
Read about vigils held for Robert
Robert's Funeral

Death Occurred in the state of Michigan

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