Mother charged with 12-year-old son’s death, tried to kill 4-year-old son, police in Tennessee say

Patricia Sylvester admitted to strangling her son to death and attempting to kill her 4-year-old son, police said.
Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 12:41 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2023 at 1:19 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV/Gray News) - A Tennessee mother is behind bars after police said she admitted to strangling her 12-year-old son to death and attempting to kill her 4-year-old boy.

According to Shelbyville Police, the 12-year-old, named Esteban Sylvester, was found unresponsive by his father at their residence on Barksdale Lane around 10 p.m. Monday. Neighbors helped the father try to revive him and called 911.

The investigation then centered around the boy’s mother, 32-year-old Patricia Sylvester, and the 4-year-old son, Rafael Sylvester, who were both missing. An Endangered Child Alert was issued for the boy, who was believed to be with his mother and traveling in a Dodge Caravan.

Sylvester and her 4-year-old son showed up at the apartment shortly after the alert was issued Tuesday morning and were taken to the police department for questioning, officers said. Sylvester admitted to strangling her son, Esteban, to death, and attempting to kill Rafael, the 4-year-old.

The investigation shows the 12-year-old died by strangulation.

Sylvester is charged with one count of criminal homicide and one count of attempted criminal homicide. She remains in custody on a $2 million bond.

Sierra Burgess lives in the apartment above Sylvester and says her three children would always play outside with Esteban and Rafael. Burgess and her neighbors said they heard loud noises coming from downstairs on Monday night, but she never thought something like this could happen.

“Their kids were really, really good,” Burgess said. “You never heard anything out of them. They never caused any trouble or anything.”

Burgess watched from her window as officers searched through a dumpster for evidence police said Sylvester tried to throw away while cleaning up the crime scene. She said this crime is devastating, and they no longer feel safe in their apartment complex.

“I want to move. I don’t even want to live here,” Burgess said. “If she is accused of that, or she did do it intentionally, she could’ve literally grabbed anyone walking up those stairs and hurt their kids.”

Officers said Esteban was entering seventh grade at Harris Middle School and loved to play basketball. The school is providing counseling services for any of his friends and members of the school community that need support during this difficult time.