Young father pleads guilty to manslaughter of three-month-old daughter

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A young Auckland father has pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the death of his three-month-old daughter in April last year.

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Jerome Dean, 21, made a brief appearance in the High Court at Auckland via audio-visual link and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/ 123rf

Jerome Dean, 21, made a brief appearance in the High Court at Auckland via audio-visual link this morning.

Entering his plea, he said he was taking responsibility for his actions and he did not mean to kill his baby, Thalia Samson-Dean.

Thalia died in Middlemore Hospital on 13 April, 2020, during the first nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

According to an agreed summary of facts released to RNZ, Dean was at home in Papatoetoe with the rest of his family on the night of Thalia’s death.

Dean was trying to settle Thalia and became angry that she would not stop crying.

“He wanted to be the type of father who could settle his baby and was frustrated that he could not, suspecting that this meant Ms Kumu [the baby’s mother] may have cheated on him and that Thalia was therefore not his child,” the court documents said.

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Dean then assaulted his daughter.

“He struck her at least five to six times with a closed fist, striking Thalia with the base of his hand in a ‘thumping’ motion. He later told police that he had used seven to eight out of 10 force, similar to ‘jabbing’ an adult in a boxing match,” the court documents said.

An ambulance was called and paramedics were told Thalia had displayed flu-like symptoms and fever earlier in the week, prior to her death.

That meant the death was initially treated as a possible Covid-19 case.

A post-mortem examination identified the preliminary cause of death as blunt force injuries to the head. A further coronial autopsy report determined the cause of death to be “blunt injuries of head”.

Dean was twice interviewed by the police.

“The defendant stated ‘I knew those hits were bad … because I’m angry at that point … I knew those hits was going to cause, you know, some damage but it’s just ’cause I’m angry, I’m frustrated, I’m not thinking right and then I’m just, you know, I wasn’t thinking at all … I did it but I wasn’t thinking’,” the court documents said.

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Dean was remanded in custody and will be sentenced in May.

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