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May 25, 2019

Brooklyn man charged with throwing 4-year-old brother off roof to his death had struggled with mental health woes

September 30, 2018
NYPD Detectives walk Shawn Smith from the 70 precinct in Brooklyn after he was charged with the murder of his brother Shimron Smith on Saturday. (Kendall Rodriguez for New York Daily News)

Months before he allegedly threw his 4-year-old brother off a Brooklyn roof to his death, Shawn Smith was showing signs of trouble.

Smith, 20, was planning to immigrate to New York with his family last December but mental health issues forced him to stay at a hospital in his native Guyana before he was able to join the rest of his family, relatives said Sunday.

And months after arriving in New York, Smith broke down a heavy door in his family’s Flatlands apartment, prompting his frightened mother to call 911. He landed in Kings County Hospital for more psychiatric treatment.

4-year-old Shimron Smith on his first day of Pre-K
4-year-old Shimron Smith on his first day of Pre-K (Obtained by News)

“He spent three weeks there and when he come back, he was okay,” mother Odessa Frith, 39, said Sunday. “Everything was okay.”

But other relatives could tell something remained seriously wrong.

“You could see in his eyes, he was deteriorating,” said Robin Frith, who is married to Smith’s grandfather. “He was a sick person — you could see it!”

On Saturday, Smith finally snapped.

He flagged down cops around 3:30 a.m. nearby his family’s Flatlands home and led them to little Shimron Smith’s broken body in the courtyard of their seven-story building on Nostrand Ave. near Avenue K.

Authorities say he calmly told the cops he had tossed his brother from the roof about 45 minutes earlier. He confessed to the shocking crime a second time while in police custody, according to police sources.

“I’ve finally become a criminal!” Smith told reporters as he was walked out of the 70th Precinct stationhouse Saturday night in a Tyvek suit.

Little Shimron had just started pre-K at Public School 119 Amersfort a few week ago. A heartbreaking photo shared with the Daily News shows him on his first day proudly holding a pint-sized grey-and-green backpack.

“It’s a shock. I didn’t brush my teeth for two days,” his grief-stricken grandfather Keith Frith told the Daily News Sunday. “I didn’t shower for two days. I just get up. And I’m numb.”

A candle memorial for 4-year-old Shimron Smith near his home.
A candle memorial for 4-year-old Shimron Smith near his home. (Catherina Gioino for New York Daily News)

The boy, playful and cheery as always, had last visited their home a few weeks ago. Robin Frith was cooking chow mein that day.

“He came to me and he says to me, ‘I’m hungry, Auntie,’” Robin Frith recalled. “He ended up leaving before dinner was completed,” she said. “That will stay in my head all the time because that’s the last thing we had spoken about, that he wanted to eat the food.”

The tot was inseparable from his 5-year-old brother Steven — and often acted like the older sibling.

“Shimron acted like the grown up. Shimron would engage Steven and he would tell him what to do,” Robin Frith chuckled. “He was a special character . . . Shimron was a smart kid.”

Now Steven is trying to comprehend he’ll never see his little brother again.

“He know what happened but he still doesn’t understand,” mother Odessa Frith said. “He want to know when Shimron comes back, why he’s taking so long.”

“My baby was just a joy,” Odessa said of little Shimron. “He touched everyone’s hearts.”

Relatives said Smith often refused to take the medication he was prescribed when he was discharged from the hospital after breaking the door because he believed it was poison.

“If you’re schizophrenic, you’re hearing voices and (they’re) telling you what to do,” Robin Frith said. “There were people (from the hospital) who were visiting the house and he wasn’t speaking to them.”

Despite his struggles, he worked a part-time job with his brother doing demolition work.

His mother was baffled what could drive him to commit such unspeakable horror.

“I don’t know. I ask myself,” she said. “Even the night before it happened, all of us, we sit here on the chair over here, we’re sitting and laughing and laughing.”

Smith was charged with murder after his arrest. His arraignment was postponed Sunday while he was evaluated at Bellevue Hospital.

With Thomas Tracy

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