RI man sen­tenced to life in jail for killing 10-year-old daugh­ter

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com

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.”

Prov­i­dence Jour­nal pool pho­tos cour­tesy of Michael Delaney

Jorge DePina, top photo, lis­tens to Su­pe­rior Court Judge Netti C. Vo­gel dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s sen­tenc­ing.

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