- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (AP) - A Gann Valley woman convicted of beating a 4-year-old boy to death after he wet his pants could be released from prison decades earlier than expected.

Twenty-five-year-old Donika Gonzales was accused in 2013 of killing 4-year-old Mason Naser after Naser soiled himself. She was later convicted of manslaughter and aggravated assault and sentenced in July 2014 to 145 years in prison.

The Daily Republic reports (https://bit.ly/28OFfBB ) Judge Bruce Anderson recently modified the sentence to 90 years. He said Gonzales was “essentially serving a life sentence” even though she appeared amenable to rehabilitation.

Anderson said a life sentence should only be imposed after rehabilitation had been “completely ruled out.”

The judge said in his decision that Gonzales had not accepted responsibility for Naser’s death, but she had adjusted to prison life and followed the rules, while maintaining a positive attitude.

“This modified sentence recognizes her ability to be rehabilitated, as well as her efforts in that regard over the past two years,” Anderson said. “The sentence leaves some light at the end of the tunnel to incentivize her efforts at rehabilitation and leaves a long period of supervision whereby the state can monitor her.”

Gonzales will now be eligible for parole when she’s in her mid-40s, rather than when she’s in her late-80s. The suspended 50 years may be imposed if Gonzales commits a crime.

Buffalo County State’s Attorney Dedrich Koch called the decision disappointing.

“I feel the original sentence was appropriate considering heinousness of the crime,” Koch said.


Information from: The Daily Republic, https://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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