(JAMAICA GLEANER) – The Clarendon woman who used a piece of board to beat her two-year-old daughter to death because the child defecated on herself will likely spend no time in prison.
Delreta Smith, 53, was sentenced last Friday to three years in prison, but Justice Courtney Daye ordered that the sentence be suspended for two years.
This means that if Smith does not commit a criminal offence over the next 24 months, she won’t have to serve the sentence.
At the time the sentence was handed down in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston, the mother of 12 – two of whom were born after the gruesome death of two-year-old Sherene Smith in 2006 – was in the May Pen Hospital awaiting surgery.
“She is fighting a particular illness and may not have long with us,” her attorney Sean Osbourne revealed in court as he pleaded with Daye to show mercy and not send her to prison.
Smith pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the Clarendon Circuit Court in January and later admitted to probation officers that she “used a piece of stick to hit the child as a means of teaching her bowel control”.
“The incident has left her distraught and has worsened her medical condition,” one probation officer noted in her social enquiry report.
While acknowledging her remorse, Daye said he had to compare her account of how Sherene died with the post-mortem report, which indicated that the two-year-old had blood in both kidneys and laceration to the posterior wall of the small intestine.
“Cause of death: hypovolemic shock due to rupture to intestines and blunt trauma to kidneys,” the report concluded.
“What it suggests is that the trauma was not only to her (Sherene’s) foot as the mother said, but there must have been trauma to other parts of the body,” Daye noted.
But Daye, in a very detailed explanation of his decision to impose a suspended sentence, said he took into account the fact that Smith pleaded guilty on the first relevant date and is entitled to a 50 per cent reduction in her sentence.
“There is a public outcry against violence towards children and other vulnerable persons, but this is not the worst case of manslaughter. It is not a case of neglect or constant abuse,” he said.
He noted, too, that the case had been before the courts for 12 years (11 years in the parish court) and that she has no previous convictions.
“If her trial had proceeded in a reasonable time and she was given a custodial sentence, she would have served it and be out already,” Daye reasoned.
Smith’s male companion, Dingwall Green, is also charged with murder in connection with Sherene’s death and is to appear before the Clarendon Circuit Court tomorrow.