Latasha Leonard
Latasha Leonard
A Canton woman convicted of felony child abuse may serve up to 30 years in prison.

Circuit Court Judge Steve Ratcliff last week threw the book at Latasha Leonard, 34, who routinely tied up and beat her 10-year-old son, who was forced to live in a tiny space behind a dresser and denied basic medical attention and access to school.

Madison County Child Protective services first looked into a complaint against Leonard in 2017. Investigators discovered that the child had been neglected to the point that his growth had stunted. At 3-foot-4 and 41 pounds, the 10-year-old was the size of an average four-year-old. He also had a broken femur that had healed naturally and had been denied immunizations.

District Attorney John Bramlett said it was one of — if not the worst cases — of child abuse he has seen.

“As a father, I cannot imagine doing something like this to my own flesh and blood,” he said. “I’m glad that Ms. Leonard will spend her foreseeable future in prison. She basically forced this child to live in a cell his entire life, and now it’s her turn to live like that.”

Leonard was convicted of Felonious Abuse of a Child, which according to state code, can carry a penalty of fines and a prison sentence “not more than 20 years.” A spokesperson for Bramlett’s office said last week that a special statute allows prosecutors to seek longer sentences, up to life without the possibility of parole, for more egregious offenses.

Leonard’s case fits into that category, they said.

The child was given over to child protective services and has since received proper medical care from the University Medical Center’s pediatric unit. He’s received eyeglasses, hearing aids, growth stimulants and both occupational and physical therapy. He’s also been enrolled in school, learned to read and write and recently started the 7th grade.

“Thanks to the hours of work by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Child Protective Services, the Canton Police Department and (UMMC) and the devotion and love of his foster mother, the child has been able to attend school, receive medical care and receive the food, love and attention that every child deserves from their parents,” Bramlett said.

The child’s father also pleaded guilty to a separate crime of facilitating child abuse and sentenced to five years.