RI man sentenced to life in jail for killing 10-year-old daughter
PROVIDENCE — Convicted murderer Jorge DePina will spend the rest of his life in prison at the Adult Correctional Institutions after a Superior Court judge on Wednesday issued the maximum sentence that could be imposed for a charge of second-degree murder.
DePina on April 6 was found guilty by a jury in the July 2013 death of his 10-year-old daughter Aleida. Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder charge and a life sentence without the possibility of parole. According to Rhode Island’s general laws, a person found guilty of second-degree murder can face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison.
In a series of blistering remarks aimed at DePina from the bench, Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel called the 37-yearold Pawtucket native “a sadist – an evil, self-involved excuse for a man,” for the way he brutally beat and tortured his daughter, which was shown to jurors in a series of videos filmed inside his home prior to her death.
“Sir, you are both a bully and a coward,” Vogel told DePina before delivering the sentence. She said that DePina’s “total lack of remorse” was apparent in the way he shed tears from inside Providence County Superior Court on Wednesday morning, saying that he “cried like a baby, but those tears were for himself, not for Aleida.”
“Sir, you killed the child,” Vogel said to DePina. “You murdered your daughter and everyone in this room, except you, knows it. He needs to be removed from society … for the rest of his life.”
Aleida DePina died from a perforated small intestine caused by blunt force trauma, which prosecutors alleged was caused by
DePina’s routine physical abuse. Home videos displayed during the trial showed Aleida subjected to severe corporal punishment from her father and autopsy photos showed a series of lacerations, abrasions, and bruises all over her back.
When addressing the court through a translator, DePina called Aleida “the most important in my life … I always provide for my child, always. If I had known my daughter was going to die, I would want to die before her.” After making that remark in Creole, DePina began sobbing. He eventually composed himself and continued to address the court, periodically stopping to weep.
DePina said he was the victim of severe corporal punishment while he was raised in Cape Verde, claiming he didn’t know whippings could be fatal.
“Had I known she was going to die here, I wouldn’t have brought her...” DePina said of his daughter, who moved from Cape Verde to Pawtucket to live with her father. “I didn’t kill my child, it was my only child. When my child died, I prayed to God to take me and give me my child back.”
DePina also said that the videos shown to jurors during the course of the trial earlier this year didn’t show him punch or kick Aleida.
“I had so much pain in my heart,” he said. “When the doctor told me my child died, I didn’t have the strength to stand up. I didn’t have anything to do with the death of my child. I don’t understand why everything’s come to this. My daughter is the most important thing in my life.”
But Vogel dismissed DePina’s show of emotion as insincere.
Aleida, the judge said, was “beaten, tortured, and murdered by the very person who should’ve protected her from harm … The greatest mark of a father is how he treats his children when no one looks. For three weeks, jurors got a peek at how you treat your daughter when you thought no one was looking.”
Prosecutor Shannon Signore said the state was happy with the jurors’ verdict and the judge’s sentencing, calling it “one of the most emotional cases … To get to know Aleida through the videos, you see her pain and feel it.”
She also said DePina’s perceived lack of remorse during his statement to the court before sentencing “weighed heavily on the judge’s decision. His lack of remorse shows that he cannot be rehabilitated and it wasn’t surprising.”
During her remarks before DePina was sentenced, Signore said she was particularly offended by DePina’s letters in a pre-sentencing report, in which he writes of how he’s in pain and how difficult the situation was for him.
“It’s an insult to Aleida DePina and her memory,” Signore said, later adding that the 10-year-old girl was “isolated in her own living hell, created by this monster.”
Signore was also quick to dismiss the notion that DePina could be a candidate for rehabilitation, saying he’s had 39 infractions since being remanded to the ACI, with those infractions including fighting, disruptions, and indecent exposure.
Signore also referenced a remark DePina made after being found guilty in April, in which he shouted “I’m going to do 18 to 20!” in Creole. She said that’s “not good enough, it’s way too short.”
“He took Aleida’s life in the most horrific, horrendous way. He took a life, he should do life,” she said.
Defense attorney John MacDonald said there was much more to DePina than what was depicted on the nearly 100 minutes of video shown to jurors during the trial. He said there was “no doubt” that DePina loved and cared for Aleida, but his obsession over ensuring she received proper care morphed into a rage.
“I believe something happened. I’m not sure Jorge DePina can explain it,” MacDon- ald said.
MacDonald spoke to DePina’s upbringing in Cape Verde, as he had to care for his siblings and walk miles just to get them water. He said “you cannot throw away 37 years of hard work and good deeds,” adding that DePina constantly worked two to three jobs to support his family.
“Jorge constantly bragged about Aleida … Obviously, something terribly wrong happened along the way,” MacDonald said. He also said that more than 50 letters written by family and friends in support of DePina should show that the case is not as simple as “a life for a life.”
He further said that DePina spends every waking mo- ment of his life regretting his daughter’s death, saying that “punishment will never end.”
MacDonald and fellow defense attorney Lauren Balkcom declined to comment after Vogel’s sentencing.
Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin in a press release emailed on Wednesday afternoon said: “Rather than protect and care for Aleida, the defendant mentally and physically tortured his daughter, causing her death. Despite the overwhelming evidence and the jury’s guilty verdict, he refuses to take responsibility even today for his actions, instead blaming her death on everyone and everything else – his upbringing, the police, even innocent Aleida herself.”
“While no one was there to protect Aleida when she was alive, she found protectors after her death – the detectives, prosecutors, support staff, and medical personnel who protected her memory, who spoke for her, and who finally got the justice that she so richly deserved,” Kilmartin said. “Child murder cases are some of the most difficult and emotional cases to investigate and prosecute, and the team that handled this case deserve a great deal of credit for never losing faith and never losing sight that they were all Aleida had.”
Jorge DePina, top photo, listens to Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel during Wednesday’s sentencing.