A Michigan man has been sentenced to life without parole for torturing, burning and killing a 4-year-old girl in what one official said was the “worst child death case” he’d seen in all his years on the job, according to reports.
Convicted Sept. 20 of murder, torture, child abuse and conspiracy for killing Gabrielle Barrett, his girlfriend’s daughter, Brad Fields, of Sumpter Township, had his sentence handed down on Tuesday, the Detroit News reports.
Barrett’s girlfriend and Gabrielle’s mother, Candace Diaz, 25, faces the same charges as Fields, and is scheduled to stand trial in March, according to the newspaper.
Police responding to a 9-1-1 call found Gabrielle just before 11 a.m. New Years’ Day 2018, severely burned and in cardiac arrest on the bathroom floor in the couple’s home, located at Rawsonville Woods mobile home park, according to a news release by the Sumpter Township Police Department.
The 4-year-old was pronounced dead-on-arrival at the hospital.
The couple, meanwhile, had fled their mobile home after the child's death, and according to Local 4 WDIV Detroit, were caught by authorities eight days later in Georgia.
The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner called Gabrielle’s death the "worst child death case” it had seen in 27 years of practice, finding the child died of septic shock and multiple traumatic injuries, according to court filings obtained by the Detroit Free Press.
The child had been scalded with hot water and had severe “burns on her legs from the knee down, on her buttocks, posterior to both elbows," the filings say.
She was burned so badly one of her big toes detached from her body. Police found “a large amount of melted skin in the bathtub drain."
She also had bruises and cuts on her face, rotted teeth and her hair was matted with lice.
While sentencing Fields, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans said the evidence presented at trial showed that he immersed Gabrielle in scalding hot water, then “peeled burned skin off her body and placed it in a drain.”
Judge Evans also found that on other occasions Fields drugged the girl, beat her, ignored her pressing need for dental care and made her sleep naked in a garbage bag on the floor.
“Her only escape was school, which she loved,” Judge Evans said, as quoted by the Detroit Free press reports. “But at night she was tortured and humiliated.”
Fields’ abuse of Gabrielle was, according to Facebook messages between Fields and Diaz viewed by WDIV, triggered by the couple’s inability to potty-train her.
In one message, Fields told Diaz he “smacked [the child] in the face twice” for urinating on herself. In another, Fields wrote “it’s going to hurt her real bad if she doesn’t [expletive] stop” urinating on herself or defecating on the floor, the Detroit Free Press reported.
A court document viewed by the Detroit Free Press stated that both parents suffer from "severe mental illnesses for which they admit they are not treating."
Joe Guest, Gabrielle great-grandfather, was in court Tuesday to see Fields sentenced, according to WDIV, and expressed satisfaction afterwards.
“Justice was done today, OK?” he told reporters, as quoted by the outlet. “Judge Evans seen fit to take into exactly what she should do, and I thank her for that.”
[Photo: Sumpter Township Police Department]