9-year-old accused of beating little brother with broomstick

Caregiver also charged after boy, 4, found dead
Police arrested 53-year-old Yolanda Denise Coale on an aggravated child abuse charge after her...
Police arrested 53-year-old Yolanda Denise Coale on an aggravated child abuse charge after her 4-year-old nephew, of whom she was the legal guardian, was found dead.(Source: Mobile Police Department via WALA)
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 3:19 AM EST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A 9-year-old girl is facing a criminal charge in connection with the death of her 4-year-old brother. She is the second person facing charges in the tragic case, alongside the boy’s aunt and caregiver.

Police arrested Yolanda Denise Coale, 53, on an aggravated child abuse charge Thursday night. It was the same day her 4-year-old nephew, of whom she was the legal guardian, was found dead after officers were called around 8 a.m. for a medical emergency involving a child, WALA reports.

Mobile County District Judge Spiro Cheriogotis set Coale’s bail at $150,000 on Friday and ordered that in addition to having no contact with children, she is to submit to electronic monitoring if she makes bail.

“She was the legal guardian of the child. … During the course of the investigation, Mobile police found evidence of abuse for this child, and then he was found deceased,” said Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Louis Walker after Coale’s court hearing.

Many key details of the case remain a mystery. Walker could not immediately say how long the child had lived with Coale or how she came to have custody of him. Even the cause of death is uncertain. A police spokeswoman told WALA that investigators are waiting for an autopsy.

But court documents recently revealed new details.

According to records, the boy’s 9-year-old sister is facing a first-degree assault charge. Investigators believe the girl beat her little brother with a broomstick.

Court documents reveal Coale woke up to the sound of screams Wednesday, with the girl allegedly beating her brother. Documents also show there were bruises found on the boy’s body and other signs of “long-term abuse.”

Coale was arrested the next day.

The abuse that investigators say the boy suffered is all too common, according to Child Advocacy Center of Mobile executive director Andy Wynne.

“It’s incredibly tragic,” he said. “And unfortunately, it happens a little bit more frequently than I think people want to think about.”

Wynne said his agency handles some 500 cases a year, everything from sexual to physical abuse. And that’s only a fraction of the overall problem, Wynne says, since not all abuse cases come his way.

“It’s also recognized as the most underreported crime in the country. We probably get about somewhere between 10 and 25 percent of the kids who are being abused are reported,” he said. “It’s really the high-profile, the real tragedies, like the death of this child you’re talking about, that bring forward. But there’s lots of kids who are out there suffering and silence.”

Coale is scheduled to appear back in court Wednesday. For now, she faces only the aggravated child abuse charge, but prosecutors say it is possible that charge could be upgraded.

She has no local criminal history except for an arrest in 2005 charging her with furnishing alcohol to a minor.

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