Eugenia Holmes rides the subway with her son Kyle Smith in an undated photo. The boy was found beaten to death last Friday.
The mother who left her 3-year-old son with an abusive neighbor said Wednesday she will be haunted forever by the sight of her child's body lying in the morgue.
"That's the last image of my son I'm ever going to see," said Eugenia Holmes after she visited Kyle Smith's battered body in the Brooklyn medical examiner's office.
"And him to just lay there on the table, I just wanted to touch him," she told Channel 7. "I just wanted to touch him."
The one-time drug addict said she left her son with a friend and neighbor, Nymeen Cheatham, 29, in August 2007 so she could get clean.
Holmes then moved to South Carolina, where she recently got married. She said she and her new husband were making plans to reunite with Kyle.
Holmes said she had no idea that Cheatham had lost custody of her own four children in 2003 because of neglect.
"It wasn't like there was other people offering to help, and I just decided I was going to give him to her," Holmes said. "This was someone I knew for years, not out of the blue and just came into contact with."
Holmes was a struggling single mom depending on friends for shelter when sheleft Kyle with Cheatham, said a friend,Lateasha Dowdy.
"She really didn't want to give up Kyle to Nymeen," Dowdy said. "The day she did it she cried, but she knew she couldn't keep running place to place with him."
Kyle was beaten to death last week, and Cheatham and her live-in boyfriend, Lemar Martin, 25, have been charged in the beating that led to the toddler's death.
Funeral plans were still unclear yesterday for Kyle, who was found Friday in Cheatham's Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment.
The brother of the boy's biological father, Elliot Smith, 25, said yesterday there might be a weekend service, but plans were still being made.
The Administration for Children's Services visited Cheatham's home in October 2007 after she petitioned for legal custody. Caseworkers determined Kyle was happy and safe.
The custody case was closed when Cheatham failed to report to a Feb. 4 hearing, and Kyle remained in her care.
Neither Family Court nor the ACS had any further involvement with his case, despite an allegation by Kyle's paternal grandmother, Norma Acosta, that Cheatham had punched Kyle in the chest.
Holmes herself was investigated for neglecting her children in 2006 but told ACS caseworkers interviewing her for Cheatham's custody case that she had turned her life around.
Holmes planned to return to Brooklyn in August to get Kyle and his 6-year-old brother, Darien, who lives with Acosta, her friends said.
With Erin Durkin, Xana O'Neil and Christina Boyle
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Kyle's mom sees abused tot for last time - in morgue