Report: Victim injured, starved

A memorial is built by community members in honor of Treyanna Summerville, a Gouverneur senior who was reported dead June 22, during a vigil for Treyanna in the village of Gouverneur that same evening. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

GOUVERNEUR — Treyanna N. Summerville reportedly spent four days in malnourished, injured and unconscious states before emergency services personnel were called to her home at 135 Rowley St.

She was 18, and she was reported dead in the early morning hours of June 22.

State police in Gouverneur arrested Ms. Summerville’s 13-year-old half sister at 3:20 p.m. June 22 on a second-degree murder charge. Ms. Summerville’s mother, Lashanna N. Charlton, who turns 39 this week, was charged last week with second-degree manslaughter.

The 13-year-old’s case is pending in the youth part of St. Lawrence County Family Court, and Mrs. Charlton’s case is now being handled in county court after her attorney Melissa K. Swartz requested the case be divested from local court.

A charging document, the felony complaint related to Mrs. Charlton’s arrest, was filed in Gouverneur Town Court on July 15, when Mrs. Charlton voluntarily went to the Gouverneur state police barracks on Route 11 after processing arrangements had been made.

Filed by state police Troop B Major Crimes Unit Investigator Steven R. Bos, the complaint alleges Mrs. Charlton was aware Ms. Summerville had sustained injuries “due to an assault” and “substantially contributed to the malnourishment and assault” against Ms. Summerville between June 18 and 22. The complaint further alleges Mrs. Charlton failed to seek medical assistance while Ms. Summerville was “unconscious as a result of the malnourishment and assault,” therefore demonstrating a knowing disregard for her life and creating “substantial and unjustifiable risk” of Ms. Summerville’s injuries leading to her death.

An official autopsy report or cause of death has not been released.

Mrs. Charlton was arraigned before Town Justice Travis E. Dann and remanded to St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, on $25,000 cash bail or $50,000 bond. She was released on bond July 16.

An adult convicted of second-degree manslaughter, meaning a person “recklessly caused the death of another person,” or “caused or aided another person to commit suicide,” may face up to 15 years in prison. Mrs. Charlton was charged under subdivision one of the state penal law describing second-degree manslaughter for “reckless cause.”

In New York, a second-degree murder conviction of a juvenile defendant, under the age of 14 at the time of the offense, carries an indeterminate sentence of a minimum of five to nine years and a maximum of life imprisonment. A second-degree murder charge is levied when a person is believed to have caused the death of someone after intending to do so or “recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person.”

Other subdivisions of state law further describe second-degree murder, though many involve additional homicide charge specifications related to sexual acts, robberies and people older than 18.

The five-member Charlton-Summerville family moved to the north country around 2011, according to Ms. Summerville’s older stepbrother Tae’von Isiah Charlton Samuels, who also goes by Isiah Samuels. Mr. Samuels said he, Mrs. Charlton, her husband Rhodney A. Charlton, Ms. Summerville and their younger half sister lived together at 135 Rowley St.

Town of Gouverneur tax assessment records indicate Mr. Charlton has owned the Rowley Street residence since 2012, and the 2019 roll indicates he still owns the home. Mr. Samuels said his father was on military assignment out of the area until a few days after Ms. Summerville was reported dead, returning to the area as the state police and district attorney homicide investigation was getting started.

Mr. Charlton was previously stationed at Georgia’s Fort Stewart prior to being assigned to Fort Drum, living off base with his family 30 miles northeast in Gouverneur.

From the family’s move until 2015, Mr. Samuels lived at the Rowley Street residence, primarily with Mrs. Charlton and his sisters, Mr. Charlton sometimes traveling for assignments. For three years, Mr. Samuels said, his stepmother Mrs. Charlton twisted what may have begun as “discipline” into psychological and physical abuse.

Recalling an incident from 2013, Mr. Samuels said Mrs. Charlton “beat him with a baseball bat,” hitting his arms.

“She hit Treyanna that day, too,” he said.

Peppered across the years he lived with Mrs. Charlton until he ran away in early 2015, incidents of abuse have left him with permanent psychological and physical scars.

A Gouverneur High School graduate of December 2014, Mr. Samuels said he bolted from the house in January 2015 after he said Mrs. Charlton threatened to kill him and hit him in the head with a frying pan. He said a few months before that, Mrs. Charlton asked Ms. Summervile to “get the knife,” apparently readying to “discipline” him for something, Mr. Samuels said. At first, he said, his stepsister cried and did not retrieve a knife, eventually giving in and bringing it to Mrs. Charlton.

He has two notches on his left arm from that day.

“I’m still figuring out how the world works, but from what I understand, a person should be able to wake up and do what they need to do in life and go to bed, regardless of how old they are, of their gender, of their race,” Mr. Samuels said. “They shouldn’t be physically hurt constantly.”

Father’s Day, the day before Ms. Summerville was reported dead, Mr. Samuels said his grandmother asked him to call his father, Mr. Charlton, as she was under the impression something was going on at the house between Ms. Summerville and Mrs. Charlton, that Ms. Summerville hit her mother. After receiving confirmation from his father over the phone about Ms. Summerville hitting her mother, Mr. Samuels said he called his 13-year-old half sister, who he said indicated no one else was around and described her as “reading from a script.”

“I was over the edge already before any of this happened,” Mr. Samuels said. “I feel like I have an understanding of where Treyanna’s living — she can’t do anything, she can’t use the bathroom, can’t brush her teeth, can’t shower, can’t talk to friends, can’t do anything in her life but be a slave to Lashanna — so if she’s fighting back, that means she had some liberty.”

No additional information about the criminal cases against Mrs. Charlton or the 13-year-old is being released at this time.

County Child Protective Services personnel, Mr. Samuels said, were called to the home after a 2013 baseball bat incident. He said a CPS caseworker completed periodic check-ins at 135 Rowley St., adding that neither he nor his sisters were removed and he only spoke to his caseworker during check-ins at the house when Mrs. Charlton was present.

“Even as we speak, somewhere, there’s some kid 15 or younger going through something nobody should be going through,” Mr. Samuels said last week. “And they’re not going to say anything about it because the person doing it has such a hold on them.”

CPS Grade A Supervisor Heather Rand, who is listed as the CPS “contact person” on the county website, is not permitted to speak to media, according to a Department of Social Services employee who answered the phone Tuesday. Times inquiries were directed to the DSS legal office, headed by David A. Haggard, DSS general legal counsel.

Mr. Haggard said DSS has “no comment on anything to do with this,” including Ms. Summerville’s case and Mr. Samuels’ experiences with his caseworker. He added that DSS or CPS would not comment on any case and will continue to maintain that position.

“We’re supposed to hold family close to us, and for a lot of people, in this area and around the world, a father may be abusive to his daughter, but he wouldn’t go into the street and do that to a random woman,” Mr. Samuels said. “It seems like a lot of people hide behind the idea that ‘I’m a family member, so this is permissible.’”

As an older brother, as someone who knows what it was like to live in an abusive environment, Mr. Samuels said he is now intensely concerned about his 13-year-old half sister, wondering what she is thinking and how she is feeling.

“I’m tired of hearing that it’s OK for people to live in hellish situations,” he said, adding that his sisters didn’t have many foundational experiences outside of “hellish situations.” “They grew up thinking it’s OK to be treated like this.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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