Woman admits beating 2-year-old son to death for ‘whining’

Published: Thursday, February 09, 2017 @ 1:08 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 09, 2017 @ 1:08 PM

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A Canadian woman pleaded guilty this week to manslaughter in the 2014 death of her toddler son, who she said she beat to death out of frustration over his “whining.”

 

The Calgary Herald reported that Livia Starlight awaits sentencing in the slaying of 2-year-old Traezlin Denzel Starlight. Starlight’s defense lawyer is seeking mercy, citing her status as a member of the Tsuut’ina Nation, one of the predominant aboriginal peoples of Canada.

 

Starlight, 30, was initially charged with second-degree murder. She was arrested in July 2015 after an investigation into her son’s death.

 

Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou told the Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday that Traezlin was in and out of foster care throughout his short life because of Starlight’s drug and alcohol use, the Herald reported. Starlight was already under investigation for previous injuries to the boy on Sept. 18, 2014, when she said she grew frustrated by his behavior.

 

“When he started whining again, she picked him up off the floor and threw him onto the couch,” Papadatou said, according to the Herald. “While the cushions of the couch are soft, the arms of the couch are quite hard.”

 

When Starlight realized a few moments later that Traezlin was in distress, she texted her mother for help, the newspaper reported. “My baby’s not breathing. I’m scared,” read the text, which also asked Starlight’s mother to call for help.

 

Traezlin went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance on the way to Alberta Children’s Hospital and died a week later, the Herald said.

 

>> Read more trending stories

 

At the time of the fatal beating, Starlight was under investigation for a head injury that Traezlin suffered in August 2014, when she had him out of his foster home for a visit. In that case, Starlight claimed that her son fell out of his car seat and onto his head.

 

There were at least two previous incidents of alleged abuse as well, beginning in June 2014. In those instances, Starlight blamed the bruises on her son’s foster parents and Calgary police investigators could not determine the cause of the injuries.

 

“It was noted Livia Starlight would not cooperate with investigators, and she refused to provide a statement,” read a statement of agreed-upon facts presented in court on Monday. “The children were left in Livia’s care while the investigation proceeded.”

 

Traezlin’s autopsy showed evidence of multiple head injuries, including at least two inflicted in the month between the start of the most recent investigation into Starlight’s treatment of him and the day he suffered his fatal injuries.

 

The Herald reported that the autopsy also found bruises on the toddler’s abdomen and buttocks.

 

Alain Hepner, Starlight’s defense lawyer, is seeking a term of four to six years in prison for his client, who he claims has suffered a lifetime of racism and discrimination as an aboriginal person. Justice William Tilleman has ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Starlight, as well as a Gladue report on her background.

 

According to the Washington Post, a Gladue report is a presentencing report that takes into account the level of prejudice against aboriginal peoples in Canada’s criminal justice system. Proponents of the reports say the documents contribute to a “restorative approach” to justice.

 

Critics liken the reports to get-out-of-jail-free cards that lead to inconsistent administration of justice, the Post reported.

 

“A court worker will delve into the dynamics of Starlight’s life -- the growing-up years, the economic and social issues that surround the family and what contributed to this matter,” Hepner told the Post. “I think a lot of information will come forward from the psychiatric report and the Gladue report that will paint her, in my view, as a very sympathetic person.

 
“Some cases are awful and the people involved are just plain evil. But this is not one of those cases.”

Wrongly convicted man released after 24 years in prison for murder

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 10:24 AM

A Pennsylvania man was granted freedom Tuesday after spending 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Shaurn Thomas, 43, beamed as he walked out of the Schuylkill County Correctional Facility in Frackville and embraced family members, including his fiancée. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Thomas’ freedom was granted Tuesday morning by a judge who threw out his conviction in the 1990 murder of a businessman in North Philadelphia. 

Prosecutors in the case agreed with Thomas’ defense team that the evidence brought forth at trial did not support his conviction, the Inquirer reported. 

“I felt the justice system was going to prevail sooner or later, and that somebody would hear my cries,” Thomas said during a news conference outside the prison. “And they heard them.”

The people Thomas referred to were lawyers from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, who took on Thomas’ case eight years ago. His lead attorney was James Figorski, senior staff attorney at Dechert LLP and a former Philadelphia police officer.  

>> Read more trending news

Thomas was convicted of the slaying of businessman Domingo Martinez, who was shot to death in November 1990 while taking a $25,000 check to be cashed. 

Thomas, then 16, had an alibi. He told authorities from the beginning that he was at a youth study center for juvenile offenders, dealing with the aftermath of an unrelated crime. 

Both Thomas and his mother said they were in court at the time of the murder, awaiting his initial appearance on an arrest the night before for a motorcycle theft, Dechert LLP said in a statement

The sign-in logs from the youth center disappeared before Thomas’ murder trial began. His alibi did not convince the jury, who found him guilty of Martinez’s murder. 

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1993, at the age of 19. 

Figorski, who represented Thomas pro bono, told the Inquirer that he was drawn to the case because he believed Thomas’ alibi. He worked with the Innocence Project to clear his client’s name. 

“Jim has never wavered in his support of Shaurn, and is responsible for uncovering astounding evidence of his innocence,” the Innocence Project said in a news release

The defense team began working in January with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Review Unit, which found the case file from the Martinez murder investigation. The file disappeared decades ago.

“In that file were 36 pages of witness statements taken days after the murder for which Shaurn would be arrested years later,” the Innocence Project said. “Those statements point to viable alternative perpetrators.

“Had that information been available at trial -- and had the story of Shaurn’s presence in court at the moment the murder was committed been told correctly -- prosecutors agreed the trial would likely have ended differently.”

Despite his release, prosecutors could choose to refile murder charges against Thomas, the Inquirer reported. They have until June 13 to make their decision. 

In the meantime, Thomas is adjusting to being back with his family. He told NBC10 in Philadelphia that he plans to leave the city.

“Philadelphia caused me too many heartaches,” Thomas said. 

His mother, Hazeline Thomas, said it was difficult knowing that authorities did not believe her or her son. She said her son never gave up on proving his innocence.

“I’m proud because he was innocent and he did something about it,” she told NBC10.

“Family, prayer, hope,” Shaurn Thomas said. “Keep writing. Keep fighting. Never give up.”

Customs officials capture pigeon wearing drug-filled backpack

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 2:24 PM



Andreas Koller / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

Pigeons are historically known for carrying messages. The birds are now being used to carry more dangerous items.

Customs officials in Kuwait nabbed a pigeon this week that had been fitted with a makeshift backpack filled with pills close to the Iraqi border, according to the BBC

>> Read more trending news

The bird had a total of 178 pills of ketamine, which is often used as a club drug, the BBC reported. 

Customs officials said they are aware of pigeons being used to transport drugs, but “this was the first time they had caught a bird in the act,” according to the BBC. 

Dayton man arrested for smoking marijuana with 12-year-old boys

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 11:47 AM

Marvin T. Long
Montgomery County Jail

DAYTON — A city man is being held at the Montgomery County jail after two 12-year-old boys told police he smoked marijuana with them, according to a Dayton police report. 

Marvin T. Long, 38, is being held on two counts of corrupting another with drugs charges, according police.

LOCAL: Miami Valley's Most Wanted

Dayton officers were dispatched to the 1600 block of Hearthstone Drive around 5:57 p.m. on Thursday for a drug complaint. 

The mother of the 12-year-old boys told police the smell of marijuana on her sons was extremely strong that day, according to police report.

OTHER CONTENT: Read more trending stories

“…(one of the juvenile boys) stated they had gotten marijuana from Marvin in the past, but today they only smoked it once with him at his house,” wrote Dayton Police Officer Christine Hamilton. 

Long is also being held on three failure to appear charges, according to Montgomery County Jail records. 

For updates and more news click here to download our free apps.

Woman with kids in the car arrested for OVI after crash

Published: Friday, May 26, 2017 @ 10:56 AM

Tashara Kenerly, 31, was arrested on OVI and child endangerment charges on May 25, 2017.
Montgomery County Jail

DAYTON — A 31-year-old city woman was arrested on Thursday after she crashed into a parked vehicle with two children in the car and police detected the odor of alcohol.

Tashara Kenerly is being held at the Montgomery County Jail on child endangerment and OVI charges. 

LOCAL: Teachers disciplined after giving student ‘most likely to become a terrorist’ certificate

Kenerly crashed into a parked vehicle in the 500 block of Delaware Avenue, according to a Dayton police report. 

LOCAL: Troopers: 15-year-old driving at time of crash that killed 17-year-old

“She staggered when walking, could not follow direction and or find a identification card,” wrote Dayton Police Officer Christopher Smith. “She told us she had one beer.”

Kenerly failed coordination tests on the scene, according to police. She submitted to a blood sample at Grandview Hospital which was submitted to the Dayton police secured refrigerator to be submitted to the crime lab, according to the police incident report. 

LOCAL: ODOT reopens section of I-75 where fiery crash damaged highway

The children were placed with a family member, according to police.