Abused Boy Dies; In Coma 5 1/2 Years -- Everett Father, Woman Beat Him

Matthew Parsons was 12 in 1991 when he was severely beaten at his Everett home by his father and the father's girlfriend.

He died yesterday in a Tucson, Ariz., nursing home at age 17, according to a Pima County medical examiner. Parsons had been in a coma since the September 1991 beating, which was so severe that doctors had to remove a large portion of his brain.

The father, Charles Parsons, and the girlfriend, Melody Ann Martin, both pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

Although Matthew has died, the couple cannot be charged with murder because he didn't die within three years and a day after the beating, prosecutors say.

Parsons served a five-year prison sentence and was released last fall. Martin is to be released in April.

Matthew had been staying in the Tucson facility since 1992. His mother, Melissa Parsons, his younger brother William and grandparents live nearby.

He never spoke, according to his mother, and he kept his hands clenched. If someone touched his face, he would move his arms into a defensive posture.

The beating followed other incidents. Parsons and Martin were deliberately cruel to Matthew to break the young boy's will, according to court documents. During a dispute over homework, Matthew was isolated in his home, deprived of food and sleep, and repeatedly beaten by his father and Martin over a 10-day period.

Prosecutors thought Parsons was responsible for the head injury that caused the coma until Martin's children said they had seen Martin repeatedly bash Matthew's head into the floor.

The case led prosecutors to draft a new law, which was passed by the Legislature. It didn't affect the statute of limitations for a murder charge, but it did change the laws covering assaults on children.

Previously, state law did not distinguish between assault on a child and on an adult. The new law, enacted in 1992, allows for first-degree charges and a longer prison sentence if there is a pattern of abuse and recklessness in an attack on a child.