Erica White

Reporter’s Notebook: Covering the ‘codeine killer’ accused of poisoning her disabled toddler boy

The trial for a Georgia woman accused of killing her disabled toddler continued this week; new details emerged on Weds. that the suspect reportedly cashed in on her deceased son’s disabilities checks for six months after his death.

Erica Claudette White, of Austell, sat inside a Cobb County courtroom with her face down, staring at a notepad that she wrote on while a witness with the Social Security Administration (SSA) explained how the suspect continued to receive her toddler son’s disability pay after he passed away.

White briefly paused to look up when her defense attorney, Bryan Lumpkin, argued on her behalf, but quickly looked back at her notepad without showing any emotion, a far cry from Monday’s open arguments when White shrieked after seeing photos of her deceased son.

White is on trial for allegedly putting codeine into to 2-year-old son’s feeding tube in 2014, which ultimately killed the toddler. The little boy, Tyrael, was left permanently blind and unable to walk and eat after his biological father, Joseph Rucker McFall, beat him in 2012, when he was 8 weeks old.

The jury remained somber while Chief ADA John Melvin and Lumpkin questioned the witness, who brought in a binder full of paperwork, indicating that White continued to receive $132 a month in SSA payments that were meant for her son while he was living. The witness explained that it was the duty of White to notify SSA of her son’s death, which she reportedly failed to do.

Prosecutor Melvin said that White did indeed contact SSA, but it wasn’t to inform them of her son’s death. Instead, she’s accused of requesting that the SSA payments be deposited into a different bank account.

White, according to the witness, continued to receive her son’s benefits until the state of Georgia sent an electronic notification of death to SSA in May 2015, six months after Tyrael’s death. White is also accused of trying to collect her ex-husband McFall’s $800 worth of disability benefits, which should have stopped when he became incarcerated in 2014.

Instead of notifying SSA, White reportedly used McFall’s disability money on herself and her boyfriend, Michael Robert Schullerman, her co-defendant who’s also accused of killing Tyrael.

What We Know So Far

As CrimeOnline previously reported, on Monday, when opening arguments began, the prosecution described White as “poisoning for profit” liar, thief, and murderer after she allegedly placed a lethal amount of codeine in her son’s feeding tube. White denied the accusation in 2014, claiming she had no access to codeine, but detectives determined that a few days prior to the boy’s death, she filled a prescription for Tylenol with codeine.

Chief ADA John Melvin pulled out five credit cards in court and explained to the jury that White, along with her boyfriend, Michael Robert Schullerman, obtained five credit cards using the little boy’s social security number after he passed away. Melvin said White put a fake birthdate down while applying for the cards, then later maxed out each one while trying to obtain an additional four credit cards in her son’s name.

According to Melvin, the suspect used one of the cards to make a $50 purchase at a liquor store. She then bought numerous electronics from Best Buy for Schullerman, who’s also accused of killing the toddler. Melvin also pointed out that White took out a $50,000 insurance policy on Tyrael.

“This is a case about poisoning for profit,” Melvin said. “It’s a case about doing away with the inconvenience of a child that she viewed as damaged.”

White’s attorney Bryan Lumpkin, well-known for defending Justin Ross Harris, the man accused of leaving his toddler son inside a hot car to die, claimed that White was a “doting” mother who whose life revolved around her son.

“Erica White’s life was Tyrael McFall. He was having fevers. He was sick to the point of having to be in the hospital for a week. He was having breathing problems, he had a virus and he had seizures that were getting worse and worse.”

Witnesses said that White appeared hysterical when she learned her son had died, even climbing onto his hospital bed with him in an attempt to keep him close to her. She was admitted into a hospital herself for anxiety, according to her attorney, and later turned to drugs as a way to cope with her loss.

When the prosecution pulled out photos of her deceased boy in court on Monday, White shrieked and buried her face in her hands. She’s facing charges of murder, credit card fraud, identity fraud, and aggravate battery, and false swearing.

Schullerman, charged with same offenses, previously pleaded guilty to numerous charges, but not for murder. A judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison.

FURTHER Reading: ‘Poisoning for profit’: Opening arguments for ‘mom’ accused of killing blind, disabled toddler boy begins with explosive details

Check back with CrimeOnline as we continue to cover the White trial.

[Feature Photo: Erica White/Cobb County Sheriff’s Office]