Sadly, this is not the first time a teen has been charged with killing a child with wrestling moves, for in 2001 a 14-year-old Florida boy received life for the wrestling death of his playmate. Lionel Tate was 12 at the time when he performed WWE wresting moves on six-year-old Tiffany Eunick, killing her.
But it is heart wrenching to hear of this new tragedy nonetheless. Five-year-old Viloude Louis of Louisiana was pronounced dead Sunday by paramedics who responded to a 911 call by her 13-year-old brother Devalon Armstrong.
According to the New York Daily News, her death was first ruled “unclassified” because there were no outward injuries. Armstrong, who was baby-sitting his sister alone at their Terrytown home when their mother ran to the store, told paramedics that he had found his little sister crying in pain on the bathroom floor. He said he found her about 30 minutes after she had gone upstairs to brush her teeth.
He later confessed after the medical examiner found extensive internal injuries on Viloude, including lacerated liver, broken ribs and internal bleeding.
He had tried out moves he had learned watching wrestlers on World Wrestling Entertainment shows. He told investigators that he repeatedly body-slammed his little five-year-old sister onto a bed and viciously drop-elbowed her in the stomach and kidneys.
Armstrong, who was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder, is being held at a juvenile detention center.
This stunning death of a young child at the hands of her brother raises so many alarming questions. Authorities have not said if they are going to charge the 13-year-old Armstrong as a juvenile or as an adult. If tried as an adult, he could face a term of life in prison.
So how did baby-sitting turn into second-degree murder? Who is culpable besides the teen?
As is customary, television has trotted out its line of experts to weigh in, and I can imagine HLN’s Nancy Grace is preparing her nightly raves on this case. One CNN contributor, legal analyst Sunny Hostin, thought the mother was irresponsible for leaving her 13-year-old son alone with his five-year-old sister.
If this is true, another countered, then many parents across America are irresponsible for hiring teenage babysitters for a few hours; to which Hostin replied, “yes they were.”
Is Hostin’s harsh judgment warranted? Is Armstrong’s mother to blame for one of her children being dead and another behind bars for her death? Moreover, was this the first time Devalon practiced WWE moves on his sister or was this a customary thing; did he often put his sister through hell when his mom was away?
I think it is too easy to blame the parent and though we are responsible for our minor children’s welfare, there are more layers here. Judging from the names, I will deduce that the family is from Haiti or a French-speaking part of the world, and in the Caribbean and Africa, older siblings “minding” their younger ones is the norm.
Even here in the US, many families, especially single parents, use their older children to help out with the younger ones, since money for adult babysitters is often nonexistent. I am not condoning it but stating the obvious; it is a common practice among immigrant and low-income families. Sunny Hostin must not know what it feels like to be forever struggling to make ends meet financially. Most families are doing the best they can and clearly the best is not ideal, but can we crucify them?
If this wasn't the first time the teen used his sister as a punching bag and the mother knew about it, then yes, what happened here should fall squarely on her shoulders.
But what about the WWE; what role, if any, should they play in this sickening tragedy?
The billion-dollar wrestling giant has since issued a statement, absolving themselves from any and all liability or culpability in Viloude’s death or Devalon’s brutal, fatal actions. But are they really innocent bystanders?
WWE wrestlers are trotted out more than 200 days a year to perform seemingly death-defying moves on each other. They tour all over the US and the rest of the globe putting their bodies and their opponents’ through brutal, punishing blows; many of them exactly what Devalon did on his sister.
High-flying body slams, elbow drops, bodies smashed through tables, and heads slammed with chairs, sledge-hammers and every other object that can be turned into a battering weapon.
Sure, they call it entertainment and some of it is fake, but it is marketed as real and children out there cannot differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. In fact, most of the fans believe the nightly high-flying bro-kicks by Sheamus, the body-slams and RKOs by Randy Orton, Punk, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Mr. Feed-me-more Ryback, John Cena, Cain, Brock Lesnar, Mark Henry, The legendary Undertaker and The Shield—just to name a few.
WWE wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and seven-year-old son—strangled them to death before killing himself in his Fayetteville, Ga. home, June 25, 2007, so this is a violent sport that leave some of its players with so many injuries, including deadly concussions—that “entertainment” has to be used loosely.
Sure fans love the drama, the story-lines, the death-defying stunts but what is heart-stopping and real, is these kinds of tragedies. No disclaimers or warning are ever given before, during or after the shows. Most of the WWE fans today are minor children, who do not know how to separate real from fiction. Who do not know if they try those dangerous moves on each other or a sibling, they can die. You see, the wrestlers don’t seem to die, even after numerous blows, do they?
Should WWE finally tell its audience what is real and what is not? More importantly, should they warn of the dangers associated with those signature moves of their wrestlers and stress emphatically before every show—that children should not try this at home?
I know that may reduce some of the billions of dollars they rake in in revenues but they owe it to their fans. After all, WWE market their brands RAW and Smackdown, along with myriad merchandize, to our children. Toy stores like the popular Toys ‘R’ US have an entire section dedicated to the WWE.
And while parents are ultimately responsible for what their children watch on television or are exposed to, corporations like WWE bear some of the responsibility for marketing directly to our children.