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West Phoenix mom charged after allegedly beating 4-year-old son to death

Michelle Shirley
Posted at 1:25 PM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 23:26:23-04

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the stepfather involved in this incident was also facing charges in the death. That information was incorrect and the stepfather involved is not currently facing any charges.

A Phoenix woman is facing murder charges in the beating death of her 4-year-old son.

Phoenix police say on May 31, emergency crews were called to an apartment near 83rd Avenue and Indian School Road for reports of a child unresponsive.

According to a police report, the boy’s stepfather made the 911 call.

The Phoenix Fire Department rushed the boy to a hospital where he died.

On June 1, an autopsy found the boy had severe internal injuries to his organs and several broken ribs. The report stated the injuries were so severe he would not have survived more than 24 hours.

Police then interviewed the boy’s mom, 32-year-old Michelle Shirley, and the stepfather who both stated only Shirley disciplined the boy and that the only people who cared for him were them.

The 4-year-old boy had been in the care of his grandmother, Shirley’s mother, in California until she became ill in the fall of 2020. Shirley took custody of her son around January of 2021, according to court documents.

During the police interview, Shirley told investigators that her son was potty trained but that in the last few weeks of his life he began to have accidents.

According to a police report, the stepfather admitted that Shirley had “whooped” the boy the day before he died. He said she used her Nike sandal to discipline him.

He said he did not see the “whooping” but he heard it and it lasted three to four minutes. He also said it did not sound the same as when she spanked him before with the sandal and this time it sounded like a “pow.”

After the incident, the stepfather said the boy went to him and said “mommy whooped me.”

The stepfather stated he then fed the boy tacos and noticed he was falling asleep so he put him to bed.

When Shirley was interviewed, she initially told investigators she hadn’t disciplined her son in about a month and said she usually would spank him on his behind.

Shirley consented to a polygraph which she did not pass. After the test, she admitted to the polygraph examiner she had “whooped” her son with a sandal the day before he died and a second time just before he fell asleep while eating tacos.

She also stated she was smoking “blunts” one to two hours apart on the day before he died.

Shirley stated she would ask the boy why he was having accidents and he responded because he missed his grandmother and “I don’t know.”

She told her husband, that she “could not deal with this right now,” and said she was "going through it" with her own mother’s failing health.

Court documents revealed that at the end of the interview Shirley started crying. When she was put into the same room with her husband she hugged him and said “I did it, I did it.”

According to a police report, she stated, “I have to live with this, I killed my baby.”

Shirley is being charged with first-degree murder and child abuse.