The Richmond Register

September 14, 2012

Couple sentenced in beating death of infant

Plea deal eliminates chance for appeals

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — If Serenity Dawes were alive today, she’d be about three months shy of her second birthday.

She’d be walking and running, saying new words every day and enjoying things like Sesame Street, ice cream and dolls.

Instead, her father and mother, William and Diana Dawes, were sentenced Thursday in her beating death last year when Serenity was just 7 months old.

William Dawes, 28, pleaded guilty last month to murder and first-degree criminal abuse, and Diana Dawes, 28, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and first-degree criminal abuse.

Diana Dawes originally had been charged with complicity to murder, but the charge was amended in exchange for her guilty plea.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith recommended sentences of 35 years in prison for the father and 25 years for the mother.

In Madison Circuit Court on Thursday, Senior Judge Julia Adams agreed and sentenced the Dawes as recommended.

Adams, who retired as a 25th Judicial Circuit judge in 2008, was filling in Thursday for Judge Jean Chenault Logue.

“Nothing we can do in court will ever be enough,” Smith said after the sentencing when asked whether justice had been achieved for Serenity.

However, Smith said the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office was glad the case was resolved without a trial because that eliminates any chance for the Daweses to appeal their sentences.

Serenity was rushed to the hospital June 29, 2011, when she stopped breathing while at her Richmond home with her father, according to the Kentucky State Police. She was placed on life support at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, but there were no signs of brain activity.

Serenity died the next day.

During the change-of-plea hearing last month, Smith said Serenity’s autopsy showed she had multiple injuries, including a broken leg, two broken ribs, a grab or ligature bruise are her arm, bruising on her body and her brain in parts was "liquefied."

The official cause of death was complications from blunt force trauma, according to the medical examiner.

Smith said the evidence showed that Williams Dawes inflicted the injuries on his baby while Diana Dawes didn’t report the abuse or seek medical attention for her child.

Under Kentucky law, the Dawes were not eligible for the death penalty if they had both been convicted on murder charges. The maximum sentence they could have received was life in prison.

Smith pointed out that often in cases where parents kill their children, there’s no one to give a victim-impact statement to the judge at sentencing. So Smith said she had prepared a packet of information for Judge Adams to consider that included the medical examiner’s autopsy report and pictures of the conditions under which Serenity had lived as well as photos of her in the hospital shortly before she died.

“I was pointing out her injuries and asking that the parole board never, ever parole them,” Smith said.

After the sentencing, Smith also wanted to thank two people whose “very good work” helped prosecutors compile evidence in the case. They were social worker Karensa Johnson and Kentucky State Police Detective Joie Peters (retired).

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.