Judge sentences Cedar City man to 1-15 years in prison for child abuse homicide that occurred 5 years ago

Stock photo by Alex Star/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

CEDAR CITY— A man accused of involvement in the death of his girlfriend’s baby daughter more than five years ago has been sentenced to prison in connection with the case.

Fifth District Courthouse, Cedar City, Utah, April 15, 2021 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Brendan Russell Dalton, 34, will serve a term of 1-15 years at the Utah State Prison, a term ordered by 5th District Court Judge Matthew L. Bell during an in-person sentencing hearing in Cedar City on Monday.

How much time Dalton ultimately will serve will be determined by the Utah Board of Pardons, Bell said. Dalton was given credit for the more than four-and-a-half years he has spent in Iron County Jail since December 2017, when he was formally charged in connection with the child’s death.

As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Dalton had pleaded guilty last month to a single count of child abuse homicide, a second-degree felony.

Dalton originally had faced five charges, including first-degree felony murder, three counts of child abuse and one count of reckless endangerment. As part of the plea agreement, the murder count was downgraded to child abuse homicide and the remaining four charges were dismissed. 

As previously reported in St. George News / Cedar City News, both Dalton and his then-girlfriend Cherokee Dea were accused of causing the death of Dea’s 14-month-old daughter in April 2017.

According to the original probable cause affidavit filed with the court, the baby died on April 17, 2017, a few days after she had gone unresponsive while in the couple’s care. An autopsy by the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office determined the official cause of death to be homicide due to blunt force trauma to the brain. 

In 2019, Dea, the baby’s mother, received a similar sentence of 1-15 years and is currently serving that time at the Utah State Prison.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles, Dalton was given the chance to address the court on Monday.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the victim and the part that I played in this situation,” Dalton said. “I was going through a very bad time in my life …  the choices that I made were part of the problem instead of finding a solution. I take full responsibility for my part in the situation.”

Bell then made several points about the impact of Dalton’s actions.

“This case is tragic,” Bell said shortly before imposing the sentence. “The evidence shows that this little girl, before the brain injury that ultimately took her life, suffered several other injuries.”

“Now, I’m not suggesting that you caused all those injuries,” Bell told Dalton. “But you took on a role as a caretaker. For that, at least in those few months, nobody was better positioned to know what was going on.”

“Drug addiction, divorce, job loss, none of the stresses that were going through justifies the way that that little girl was treated when she was in your care,” the judge added.

“You said you were going through a hard time. I don’t doubt that,” Bell said. “But I think what that baby was going through was worse.”

Brendan Russell Dalton, of Cedar City, Utah, booking photo posted Dec. 20, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

“It’s really one thing for adults to ruin their lives through chasing their drug addiction and (making) poor choices,” Bell said. “But it’s just something completely different when a young child’s life is lost because she relies on people who are supposed to care for and protect her.”

“I’m absolutely going to follow the recommendation and impose the 1-15 years in this case,” said Bell, adding that he’d give Dalton credit for the more than 1,700 days he’d been incarcerated since Dec. 21, 2017.

“It’ll be up to the Board of Pardons to decide when you’re released,” Bell added. “And they’ll take all things into account. They’re going to make the same decision about the child’s mother, who has already been sentenced by this court. I have no doubt that they will find the facts in this case troubling.”

Bell, who also waived the payment of any fines or fees, also recommended that Dalton avail himself of opportunities for treatment and education during his prison stay.

“I do hope you’ll come out very, very different and never go down that road again,” Bell added.

On Tuesday, the Iron County Attorney’s Office issued a short written statement regarding the case.

“It is hard to adequately capture the tragedy that occurred in this case. This case serves as a reminder that drug use and addiction is rarely a victimless crime and often affects the most vulnerable in our community,” the statement said. “The Iron County Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively prosecute and seek justice in cases involving child victims. Our office is grateful for the investigators and medical professionals who worked tirelessly on this case.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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