Capitol Heights man gets 18 months in killing of baby

He had pleaded guilty to manslaughter charge in shaking death of daughter

March 08, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A 33-year-old Capitol Heights man convicted of shaking one of his infant twin daughters to death in their Columbia home nearly three years ago was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in jail.

The sentence Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney imposed on Rodney C. Rozier was less than the six years requested by prosecutors, who urged the stiffer term yesterday, saying 11-day-old Raven Rozier suffered a "horrible death."

But Sweeney, who noted the baby's "very tragic" death, said he also considered Rozier's "otherwise very good track record" in making his decision.

"There's certainly no sentence that can recognize the death of an infant sufficiently," he said before imposing 10 years with all but a year and a half suspended, plus three years' probation. Sentencing guidelines for the case recommended a term of between one and six years. Prosecutors said later that they were "disappointed" in the sentence.

"I don't believe 18 months in the Howard County Detention Center is an appropriate sentence for killing a ... baby," Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Duclaux said.

The sentence came after a hearing that featured the prosecutor's references to her young son and praise from Rozier's co-workers at a Washington restaurant for a man they called "even-keeled" and a "peacekeeper."

Rozier maintains that he did not hurt his daughter but pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December because he didn't want to take the chance that he could be convicted on a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum 30-year prison term, his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Janette DeBoissiere, told Sweeney.

The case, she said, would have amounted to a "battle of the experts" over the nature and cause of the injuries, which included 12 broken ribs, fractures of her leg and bleeding on her brain.

"He certainly intended no death and never wanted this to happen to Raven," said DeBoissiere, who asked for an 18-month term.

Authorities were called to the 8800 block of Flowerstock Row on April 13, 2000, after Raven's mother, Bridgette Thomas, called 911 to say that the baby had stopped breathing.

Rozier had watched the girl while Thomas napped alongside Raven's twin, Racine, but brought the infant to Thomas 15 to 20 minutes before she stopped breathing, according to a statement of facts read into the record in December.

Thomas told authorities that Raven made some movements - moving her right arm or opening her right eye - before she stopped breathing and went limp, the statement said.

Raven died the next day at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and a medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

In a written statement, Thomas said she gets "angry that my child is not here where she belongs" when she sees parents caring for their twins. "She should be here with her twin sister, older sister and brother growing, talking, playing and laughing," she wrote.

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