The wayward mother humiliated her only son, forcing him to get on all fours and bark like a dog, a family member said.
The abuse didn't end there. One weekend, she allegedly punched the 7-year-old's head with her fist.
And, the mother reportedly tried to choke her child.
Now, Malekah Rankins allegedly has abducted her son, Andrew Rankins-Bell, from the security of his schoolyard at Guion Bluford Elementary School in West Philadelphia.
Video surveillance cameras caught mother and son leaving the school grounds about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, said Sgt. Charles Layton, with Southwest Detectives.
Police received a tip last night that Rankins was seen boarding a SEPTA bus with Andrew at 63rd Street and Malvern Avenue, but no break in the case came of the tip.
Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman with the Philadelphia FBI office, said that that agency is assisting Philadelphia police in determining whether Andrew and his mother are still in the area.
No Amber Alert was issued because the alert is reserved for children who are taken by persons unknown to them or are in immediate danger from the person they are with.
Southwest Detectives investigators have interviewed the boy's biological father, Conan Bell, and the boy's guardians, Felicia and Keith Morrison, Rankins' sister and brother-in-law.
They all told police that they do not believe Rankins, 30, would intentionally harm Andrew, Layton said.
Rankins, whose last known address is Los Angeles, is known by the Department of Human Services.
"DHS does not currently have any open or active case with Malekah Rankins or her family," said DHS spokesman Frank Keel.
"There were prior DHS reports on the mother, as recently as fall of 2006, but we are prohibited by law from divulging the specifics of that involvement."
Keith Morrison said there had been three reports on Rankins.
"Our primary concern right now is that the child is returned safe and sound," Keel said.
The Morrisons also are distraught over their missing loved one - and his mother.
Their "little sister" has bipolar disorder, according to police and family.
They learned of the physical abuse from Andrew earlier this year, Keith Morrison said.
The Morrisons were to have a Family Court hearing today in which they expected to get permanent custody of Andrew, whom Keith Morrison describes as a "lovable" child.
Morrison also is angry at the school district for "failing" Andrew by letting Rankins gain access to him despite his efforts to the contrary.
When, on March 20, the Morrisons received full custody of Andrew, Keith Morrison said, he headed straight to Guion Bluford, on Media Street near 58th, to give copies of the court documents to the school's principal and the child's homeroom teacher.
"If they had done their job, we wouldn't be sitting here," he said.
"They failed this child," he said.
School officials said they followed procedure, but Rankins still managed to find a way to her son.
"The child was not released from the main office," said school district spokesman Fernando Gallard.
School administrators were "in the process of asking her for information and trying to confirm information by pulling their files, [when] she left the main office," Gallard said.
Schools CEO Paul Vallas took responsibility for Andrew.
"We haven't completed the investigation and ultimately it's still my watch, and I have the responsibility for the child," Vallas said.
"Clearly there's enough staff at Bluford" to provide security.
The school has one full-time police officer and two school climate officers - members of community groups assigned to help maintain order through community-based organizations, Vallas said.
Vallas said there were also six lunchroom attendants and a number of parent volunteers.
Malekah Rankins is African-American, has a medium complexion, is 5-foot-6 and weighs about 140 pounds.
Andrew is African-American, has a medium complexion, is 4 feet tall, weighs 90 pounds, and has short black hair and brown eyes. He was wearing blue pants, a red, long-sleeve shirt and black Reebok sneakers. He was carrying a black-and-gray Batman book bag. *
Staff writer David Gambacorta contributed to this report.