- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - The mother of a 2-year-old girl whose death spurred changes in Vermont’s child protection system says the 13-year-sentence the girl’s stepfather was given is a “downright insult” to the memory of her daughter.

The Rutland Herald (https://bit.ly/2i5jUvY ) reports Sandra Eastman spoke in court Tuesday at the sentencing of Dennis Duby, who pleaded guilty in May to second-degree murder in the February 2014 death of Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney.

“She would have turned 5 this year and started kindergarten,” Eastman said in court. “I would have bought her a pink frilly dress and a matching headband and taken about a thousand pictures of the first day of school, but that was stolen from me the day Dennis murdered her.”

Eastman said she only agreed to the plea deal in the hopes that Duby would take full responsibility for what happened - which she doesn’t believe he has done. “Thirteen years in prison is an insult to me personally, and it is a downright insult to Dezirae’s memory,” she said.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Levine told the Associated Press that the sentence is fair “based on all of the facts and circumstances that I detailed in court.

During the trial, Duby said he was tired and frustrated when he kicked Dezirae’s feet from under her, causing her to hit her head. He said he didn’t mean to cause the injuries that led to her death.

At the time of Dezirae’s death, Eastman was married to Duby. They have since divorced.

Eastman previously had been convicted of child cruelty after the girl’s hospitalization for broken bones. The family was under the supervision of Vermont’s Department for Children and Families. Dezirae’s father won a $500,000 settlement last year after suing the state, saying it failed to protect her.

Two months after Dezirae’s death, a young child in an unrelated case died while also under DCF supervision. Fifteen-month-old Peighton Geraw, of Winooski, died less than an hour after a DCF worker had visited the apartment where he had been living with his mother.

Dezirae’s death and that of another child two months later helped bring changes to Vermont’s child protection system, including increased staffing levels.

In June 2015, Vermont enacted a law that shifted the state’s priority in protecting children to their well-being, not reuniting them with their families. DCF also hired more social workers and administrative personnel to keep better track of cases of at-risk children.

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Information from: Rutland Herald, https://www.rutlandherald.com/

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