Boy Dies of Cancer After Begging Parents to Take Him to a Hospital

Coroner: Boy's cancer could have been cured had parents taken him to hospital.

March 13, 2009, 4:17 PM

March 16, 2009 — -- An 8-year-old Ohio boy's pleas to get him to a doctor were ignored by his parents just days before he died of cancer, investigators tell

"Willie Robinson, in the last couple of days of his life, asked his parents to take him to a hospital and would say things like 'mommy, it hurts,'" said Ohio's Cuyahoga County prosecutor Bill Mason.

"They didn't take him," said Mason, citing police reports that are not public record in the state of Ohio until after an investigation is complete.

Willie died after collapsing at his parents' home in Cleveland March 22, 2008.

His parents, William Robinson and Monica Hussing, were indicted March 11 on charges of involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and felonious assault, according to court documents.

Attorney Margaret Isquick, who is representing the couple, did not return repeated calls made by for comment.

Cuyahoga County coroner Frank Miller said that he ruled the death a homicide because it was so clear to him that the child had received no medical care before his death, despite obvious signs he was in grave condition.

Miller said Willie had been suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma, one of the most treatable forms of cancer. The coroner said the cancer may have been curable had the child's parents sought the appropriate medical care.

"We were the first to diagnose him," said Miller. "This boy had not received any medical attention before he got to us."

"He had swelling in his neck and pneumonia when he died," said Miller. "He looked gaunt and pale and certainly would have appeared visibly ill to the average person."

Sheila Slawinski, the boy's aunt, said that she suspected something wasn't right with her nephew in the year before his death.

According to Slawinski, Willie first starting shows signs of illness in April 2007, when she said he had a noticeable lump on his neck.

"We were trying to get my sister to take him to the hospital because of the lump and he was just staying in his room and complaining," Slawinski told ABC News.

Mother Ignored Her Sister's Plea to Get Son to Doctor

"He looked like Casper the ghost," she said. "He had blue circles all the way around his eyes."

Slawinski alleges that she was constantly telling her sister, who has five other children ranging in age from 6 to 15, to take Willie to a doctor and even offered to do it herself.

"He would stand at the bottom of the stairs and say that he needed help to get upstairs [to the bathroom] and my sister would tell him to get his a-- upstairs," said Slawinski.

When she finally confronted her sister, Slawinski said that the conversation quickly turned hostile, with Hussing telling her to "stay the f--- out of my life."

"I don't know what is wrong with my sister," she said. "I'm so embarrassed and ashamed that this happened."

Slawinski claims that her sister would promise to take Willie to the doctor but would never follow through.

In July 2007, Slawinski called to complain to the Trumble County Department of Child Services, hoping that it would force her sister to seek treatment for the boy.

Slawinski says she is not satisfied with the job the agency did in helping her family.

"They told me their job was to keep families together," said Slawinski.

Marilyn Paee, a department manager at the Trumble County Department of Child Services, confirmed to that agents were working with Willie's family from July 2007 until Feb. 14, 2008 -- a month before the boy's death.

"Our initial goal is always to work with the family and if they're cooperative -- which this family was -- then the idea is to work to resolve the issue," said Paee. "When it became clear in January 2008 that they weren't following through with our demands, like enrolling the kids in school and getting a doctor, we told them we'd go to court."

Paee said that was the last her agency heard of the family, which later moved to Cleveland, was that they had moved out of the Trumble department's jurisdiction.

"I don't know if they moved as a result of [the threats to take them to court] or if they'd planned all along to relocate," said Paee.

Child Services Worker Also Missed Abuse

Asked whether Willie looked as sick as his aunt described him to be, Paee said that agents would visit the home several times a month and never saw anything unusual.

"The worker observed him, saw him watching television," said Paee. "We never saw him in a sickly state."

Slawinski said she's convinced that department officials must have been shown her nephew's brother.

"If they didn't notice that boy was sick then they're crazy," said Slawinski. "Maybe they were shown a different kid when they visited."

Mason, the prosecutor, called the boy's death one of the most "tragic cases of abuse" he's ever seen.

"Honestly when I read the file for the first time my eyes watered," he said.

If convicted, Robinson and Hussing each face up to 10 years in prison. They will be arraigned March 25, according to Mason.

"Certainly I want to see a conviction and a message sent out to the rest of the world that you've got to take care of your kids and if you don't, you're going to get prosecuted," said Mason.

Willie's aunt, choking back tears, said that she too hopes to see a conviction, even if it means her sister will be sent to prison.

"I want to see my sister come out of this a better person than who she is now," said Slawinski. "It breaks my heart but I don't care if she goes to prison."

"I never, ever want to see another family go through what this one has."

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