Was Ayden Wolfe’s Killing Preventable? Here’s What We Know About the New York Boy Found Beaten to Death
The 10-year-old was found brutally beaten and unconscious in his family's public housing apartment in Harlem, New York. He was declared dead shortly after, and his mom's boyfriend, 34-year-old Ryan Cato, was arrested in connection with his homicide.
It wasn’t long ago that Ayden Wolfe, a 10-year-old living in Harlem, New York, dreamed of becoming a professional gamer on YouTube. On Saturday, authorities found the boy’s unconscious body, brutally beaten and naked on the floor of his family’s public housing apartment.
Ayden was pronounced dead shortly after, and his mom’s boyfriend, 34-year-old Ryan Cato, was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Here is what we know about the case.
Who Was Ayden Wolfe?
Not only did he have aspirations to become a YouTuber, loved ones remember Ayden as someone who was “intelligent, tech savvy, fun, loving,” according to a GoFundMe page created to support his family with funeral expenses.
“He had charisma. He just shined. His personality was amazing,” his dad Darnell Wolfe told the New York Daily News. “If only you could see how much love he had. That was my son.”
A video created in his memory shared happier moments, with the boy dressed up as Spiderman, celebrating with a cake decorated with plastic toy soldiers and posing in front of a Christmas tree wearing a sweatshirt featuring a masked Santa Claus.
He was an only child, and neighbor Judynell J. Groce remembered him as a little boy who was “always very quiet, didn’t make any noise,” she told WCBS.
Ayden had been attending elementary school remotely since schools shut last year due to the pandemic, which experts believe may have made it easier to hide any abuse Ayden was suffering, The New York Times reported.
“When you see and hear about bruises in different stages of healing, it means the abuse was prolonged and ongoing,” Dr. Mary Pulido of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children told WCBS. “We’re in remote world now with the pandemic. If he was remote learning, it’s very difficult for teachers to spot bruising, necessarily, if he was online.”
What Happened to Ayden Wolfe?
Ayden was discovered beaten, naked and unconscious in his family’s apartment Saturday afternoon, according to the New York Times. He was transported to Harlem Hospital, where he was officially declared dead.
“He had bruises on both arms and hands, both legs, his head and his face, including behind his ears, his chest, his back, and even between the toes. The child had ribs broken on both sides of his body. Some ribs had multiple fractures,” the prosecutor said, according to the New York Daily News, adding that Ayden also suffered a lacerated spleen, lacerated liver, lacerated kidney and a lacerated renal vein.
The incident has been deemed a homicide by the NYPD. Ayden’s cause of death is officially listed as “battered child syndrome,” according to prosecutors.
Authorities are continuing to investigate.
Who Is Ryan Cato?
Cato, who also has a 6-year-old autistic son, is “the devil,” Ayden’s grieving dad told the New York Daily News.
Three months ago, Cato was charged with allegedly choking another woman, and last month, he was arrested after allegedly assaulting a school bus driver, the NYPD told Inside Edition Digital. He was also arrested once in 2012 for failure to pick up dog waste, authorities said.
Cato is who called 911 Saturday. He told police that Ayden was injured outside of the home.
However, surveillance footage showed that Ayden never left the home that day, prosecutors said. Cato’s right hand was swollen when authorities arrived, prosecutors said. Cato tried to explain that his hand was injured during a work-related incident, but authorities deemed his story inconsistent.
Cato is currently being held without bail after being arraigned on second-degree murder charges Monday. He has not yet entered a plea. He is being represented by the New York County Defender Services group, a public defense firm. Inside Edition Digital has reached out to the firm for comment.
Was This The First Time Ayden Was Abused?
Ayden’s alleged abuse is not new, prosecutors said. In fact, the injuries found on the day his body was discovered were both old and new, prosecutors said.
On Friday, the day before Ayden was found beaten to death, residents claimed they heard banging and yelling from inside his apartment, the New York Times reported, citing a murder complaint filed by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
A man’s voice coming from the apartment was heard yelling, “Do you want me to beat your ass, too?” before a woman said, “No,” and another softer voice moaned in pain, residents said, according to prosecutors.
On the morning of Ayden’s killing, the same voice was heard yelling, “You thought yesterday was something?” prosecutors said.
Justine Halls, who also lives in the apartment complex, said that the walls are thin, and it isn’t surprising that residents can hear into other apartments.
"We hear everything from yelling, arguing, cursing somebody out, people outside the window,” she told WABC. “If this was going on for a long period of time, somebody should have been spoke up … Nobody said nothing 'till it was too late."
What About Ayden’s Mom?
Ayden’s mom has not been arrested or charged in relations to his death, and investigators are still working to determine whether she knew of the abuse, WCBS reported.
“She was very protective of him,” his mom’s cousin, Jennifer, told the New York Daily News. “I’ve never seen a bruise, a scratch or anything on him … she was a good mom. That boy was everything to her. She would never hurt Ayden.”
Police Were Made Aware of the Situation
Just the day before Ayden was found beaten to death, authorities had been deployed to the St. Nicholas Houses apartments to respond to a domestic dispute, the NYPD said. The person who called 911 reported hearing screaming and banging involving a child somewhere on the fourth floor, but wasn’t sure what the apartment number was.
Two NYPD officers responded to the call, checking the hallway and listening at the doors, but couldn’t find the dispute. They then called the caller back twice, but got voicemail and was never able to reach the person who called in the dispute, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said, according to WABC.
Twelve minutes later, the officers left, and resumed their normal patrol, Shea explained.
But some say authorities didn’t do enough.
There were only eight apartments on that floor, and there was no indication the officers knocked on any of the doors to find the source of the dispute.
Shea said an investigation will be launched into whether the officers’ response was enough.
“To be clear, the person allegedly responsible for Ayden Wolfe’s death is Ryan Cato,” Shea said in a statement on Tuesday. “Nonetheless, I have directed the Office of the Chief of Department to review the police response on Friday to determine if the officers’ actions were consistent with all department procedures and whether our current procedures need to be revised.”
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