GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A 4-year-old boy who was allegedly locked in a cluttered room and starved to death is getting a proper resting place thanks to Gaston County court clerks.
Someone donated $600 to the fund Thursday to get a marker for the boy who died an agonizing death.
Clerks said they were heartbroken when they realized Malachi Golden had been buried for two years with no grave marker.
They decided they had to act for him.
"He didn't have anybody to stand up and be his voice," deputy clerk Shellie Colgate said.
Colgate was in the trial of Thomas Cheeks, the stepfather convicted Thursday of starving Malachi.
The judge said the child, who had a chromosome disorder that caused seizures, spent the last months of his life in a room so cluttered it looked more like a storage closet.
"It's the worst physical neglect I have seen on any person," Colgate said.
She said during the trial she went home every day and cried.
When it ended, she realized Malachi had a bare grave with only teddy bears and flowers left there by a detective.
"The least we could do is give him a marked grave," Colgate said.
Superior Court clerks hung fliers throughout the courthouse Thursday with a passionate plea.
"It makes my soul ache for that baby," deputy clerk Staci Barnette said. "He (has been) in the ground almost two years with no marker, no identification, almost like he didn't exist."
They put out collection jars and talked to someone about buying a marker.
They expected to only get money from people around the office, people who sat in on the trial and heard about the little boy who struggled with no food for weeks, while other children in the home were well-fed.
"It tore my heart up,” assistant clerk Melissa Miller said. “I sat in there, and I know that child suffered."
Defense attorneys, along with random citizens, also donated.
"Perfect strangers just walking around the courthouse, just giving anonymous donations to help us," Barnette said.
By late Thursday morning, they had almost enough to buy a basic marker.
They are working with a funeral director to get a marker at the best price. One clerk said Malachi was an angel, and they want to get a marker that reflects that.
Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday that will allow them to seek a murder charge for his mother, Tiffany Cheeks. Last year, she agreed during a plea to testify against her husband.
She testified on the stand that she lied during her confession, which prosecutors said is a violation of her plea agreement.
Prosecutors want to wipe away her eight-year sentence and seek a stiffer penalty.
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