Nathanael Justin McIntosh, the 28-year-old man accused of shaking his infant daughter to death, was sentenced to ten years in prison on March 29 after accepting a plea bargain.
Justin had been caring for three-month-old Jasmine Danae on November 29, 2002, while the baby's mother, Caleena Burch, then twenty, crashed at a friend's house after an all-night drinking binge. Caleena came home the next morning to find four police officers questioning Justin in her Aurora apartment.
While Jasmine lay in critical condition at Children's Hospital, Justin was taken to an Aurora police station, where he "admitted to shaking his daughter until she stopped breathing," according to the arrest affidavit. Two days later, Jasmine died from "complications of severe closed head injury consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome." Her death certificate also listed "multiple healing injuries consistent with Battered Child Syndrome" ("Angel Eyes," November 6, 2003).
Initially charged with child abuse resulting in death, knowing and reckless, a Class 2 felony that can bring up to 48 years in prison, Justin avoided trial by pleading guilty to child abuse negligently causing death, a Class 3 felony with a sentencing range of four to twelve years. At his March hearing, where he was also given five years of mandatory parole, Caleena had planned to read Justin a letter she'd written to him. But she didn't have it with her, and instead broke down with emotion. In a copy of the letter, which she sent to Westword, Caleena stated the following: "I can't speak for everyone else, but for me it's as if my family, my life, my whole world has been completely destroyed. Even after a full year, I still struggle day to day to find the will to live, and when I do manage to pull myself out of bed, it's like I'm totally incompetent to the ways of the world, and I can't make a good decision to save my life.
"I decided to write this letter in hopes of bringing about some sort of closure no matter how futile an attempt . . .. Why didn't you just leave us? You could've waited till we weren't home and threw our belongings outside," the letter continues. "I wonder why you didn't just knock me around instead. You never once had the nerve to hit me, yet you know I'd have gladly taken it to spare the kids. And then I remember your famous old saying that you had an 'image to uphold.' And so you were such a coward that you had to hit someone who couldn't tell on you and potentially ruin that 'image.'"
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It doesn't look as if the two families in a disputed custody case involving another little girl will see closure anytime soon, either. Christopher and Dawne Gomez, the foster parents of five-year-old Rosa Avina, have been trying to adopt the girl almost since she was removed from her biological parents, Ponciano and Priscilla Avina, in 1999.
In 2000, a Denver judge ruled that Rosa remain with the foster parents but that the Avinas retain their parental rights and have visits with their daughter. The Gomezes wanted a second opinion and got a hearing in Weld County by arguing that the Avinas should have their parental rights terminated because they'd legally abandoned Rosa by not paying child support ("Motherless Child," March 11, 2004). However, the judge rejected the motion on March 17, leaving the previous arrangement intact.