'Pogo Stick Death': Coroner Heard Authorities 'Failed' To Protect Young Boy From His Killer
Catastrophic failures of police and Family Services led to the death of seven-year-old Levai at the hands of his mother's boyfriend, the NSW Coroner's Court in Lidcombe heard on Monday.
Levai, who had mild intellectual disabilities, was killed by his mother's boyfriend, Kodi Maybir, in May of 2013 after enduring months of abuse.
He had died from blunt force trauma to the head, an injury that Maybir initially claimed was the result of a pogo stick accident.
Maybir then changed his story and claimed Levai sustained the injury after slipping off a coffee tin he had been forcing him to balance on as a form of punishment.
He then changed tact again, stating he had accidentally thrown Levai on the floor while "play wrestling".
Justice Robert Allan Hulme disregarded his claims, instead saying Maybir had grabbed Levai and "exerted such force with his single-handed grip" that he caused both the fracture in the parietal bone of the boy's skull, and the brain haemorrhage which killed him.
Both Maybir and his mother, Kayla James, failed to call an ambulance until well after Levai had died on a mattress in the squalid Oakley music studio, where Levai resided with his mother, two younger siblings, and Maybir.
The Christian hip-hop producer eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and a number of other charges, including the production of child abuse material and gross criminal negligence for failing to call an ambulance until after Levai was dead.
Maybir received a maximum of 38 years with a 31-year non-parole period.
James received a 14-year manslaughter sentence related to gross negligence, with a non-parole period of 10.5 years after agreeing to testify against her partner.
Hulme said at the time of sentencing that Maybir was "completely unrepentant with no acknowledgement of the enormity of his inhumane conduct."
Maybir was an amateur hip-hop artist who performed under the name Kopri and used the Oatley studio to create music and videos with his friends.
He started dating Levai's mother in January of 2013 and rapidly began inflicting cruel and inhumane abuse on Levai, a great deal of which was filmed by the boy's mother.
Maybir had extremist religious views and assaulted the little boy over a 10-week period, while his mother filmed the abuse on her mobile phone.
The footage showed the couple encouraging Levai's younger siblings to hit him as well as Maybir beating him with a wooden spatula and plank.
Why didn't anybody notice what was happening to Levai?
NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) had recognised that Levai was "at risk of significant harm" and received more than a dozen reports of the boy being neglected as well as being physically and sexually assaulted.
However, the case was allocated as a low-priority investigation and no social worker ever visited the family's home, where the children were forced to bathe in a bucket and wear nappies because there was no bathroom.
Besides the inadequate housing, the children were frequently absent from schooling and exposed to cannabis in the household.
FACS and the police were called on numerous occasions to check on the family, but all of these instances failed to sufficiently address the abuse.
Police spoke to family during one incident at Bulli Beach Tourist park after they were called in by fellow campers, who noticed that Levai had been forced to sit out crying in the rain and was punched in the face by Maybir.
In Lidcome Coroner's Court on Monday, Levai's relatives broke down when one of the last photos of him was displayed on the screen -- it had been taken by a stranger in the tourist park who was disturbed by the visible injuries on Levai's face.
The young boy had a lump between his eyes.
The officers inspected Levai but assessed that he had no visible injuries at the time and left the site.
NSW Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame said the family were "deeply let down" by authorities that should have intervened.
The inquest continues.