An 11-year-old Bronx girl suffered severe burns to her face and upper body after her friend poured boiling water onto her to wake her up in what her mother called a “prank.”
Jamoneisha Merritt was rushed to the hospital with facial burns after her friend, 12-year-old Aniya Grant Stuart, woke her up from sleeping by throwing a cup of boiling water onto her face and chest during a sleepover.
Stuart has been charged with felony assault in the case, New York City police said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Merritt Awoke to the Scolding Water Being Poured Onto Her
Police sources told the New York Daily News that the incident happened while Merritt attended a sleepover at an apartment home near Findlay Avenue and East 166th Street in the Bronx on August 7.
According to police, Merritt was warned by her friend not to go to sleep that night or risk something happening to her.
When Merritt ended up falling asleep on couch in the living room, she was awoken around 4 a.m. to extreme pain on her face and chest. Stuart had had just poured a cup of boiling water onto her, and she was “jolted awake” and was immediately in extreme pain.
There was an adult home at the time of the incident, and Meritt was rushed to Harlem Hospital’s burn center, where she is being treated and has been diagnosed with second-degree burns to her face, back, shoulders, neck and chest.
A GoFundMe page has now been set up to raise money for the Merritt family and Jamoneisha’s medical costs. In three days, the campaign raised nearly $20,000.
2. Merritt’s Cousin Said the 2 Were Arguing & Her Mother Said Stuart ‘Bullied’ Her Daughter
Merritt’s cousin, Yolanda Richardson, told NBC 4 New York that the pair had been arguing before the boiling water was thrown onto her cousin’s face.
“Her and her friend got into an argument and she told her if she goes to sleep they were going to do something to her,” Richardson told the news outlet.
When Merritt awoke, Richardson said she heard intense yells coming from her cousin.
“She said she was screaming that it was burning,” she said.
Merritt’s mother, Ebony Merritt, told NY1 News that her daughter isn’t being allowed to look at her injuries at the hospital and is still in constant, extreme pain. She told the news outlet that Stuart had bullied her daughter in the past, which is why she thinks the incident occurred.
“She’s very sad, she’s emotionally messed up,” Ebony said to NY1. “She don’t understand why they did that to her, she thought they was her friends. I was told that they didn’t like her. And they just been bullying her. They’ve been on Snapchat. It’s been going on several times. The girl admitted it: ‘I don’t like her. I wanted to do it.'”
3. Merritt’ Mother Allegedly Choked Stuart & Threatened the Family
According to a follow-up report by the New York Daily News, upon learning of the incident, Ebony allegedly choked Stuart over the incident and yelled threats outside of the apartment directed at her and her 34-year-old mother, Shernett Panton.
“I’m going to cut your face, you f***ing b****!” the Daily News reported Ebony screamed August 10. “I’m going to burn your f***ing house down! You let this happen to my daughter!”
Police responded to the scene and diffused the situation without further incident.
Panton told the Daily News that since the incident occurred, her daughter has tried to commit suicide, calling the tragic situation the result of a prank gone wrong.
“My daughter tried to stab herself with a knife,” Panton said. “It was a prank — not a good prank. But after she saw what she did to (Jamoneisha) was really wrong, she tried to kill herself.”
Panton said that Merritt “basically moved into their apartment” about a month ago and had consistently stayed overnight.
“They always prank each other,” Panton said to the Daily News. “My daughter was sleeping and Jamoni poured cold water on Aniya. My daughter was like, ‘OK, if you’re gonna do a prank on me, I’m gonna prank you back.”
4. Merritt’s Family Describes her as Being Fun & Energetic
Merritt’s family has been at her side at the hospital ever since, and have been emotionally distraught, they told NBC 4.
“I could only be with her for a little bit, because I can’t hold myself together,” Robinson said to the outlet. “I don’t want her to see me cry.”
The family described the 11-year old as being “joyful, fun and energetic,” adding that she always has a smile on her face and loved to see others have one, too.
“She’s just a bundle of joy, you can’t be around her and be sad,” cousin Starshanae Nixon said told NBC 4, adding that although she suffered serious injuries, she keeps her happy spirit.
5. The ‘Hot Water Challenge’ is a new Social Trend
The burning incident seems to be the result of a new social trend called the “Hot Water Challenge.”
The “challenge” is inspired by YouTube videos an involves “pouring boiling water on unsuspecting friends,” TIME wrote.
Pope’s aunt Diane Johnson had a message for parents across the globe to keep track at what your children are doing and follow the social trends.
“Parents, talk to your kids about these challenges,” Johnson told a local CBS affiliate. “Don’t just give them your phone and let them go by. Watch what they are doing.”