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By Tim Leeds 

Gardipee gets 13 years

Attorney asked for 31 months, child's family asked for life; appeal likely

 

August 22, 2014

Eric Seidle

Althea Gopher-LaMere, left, embrases her daughter Jasmine Small Thursday outside U.S. District Court in Great Falls, after the sentencing of Cecilia Rose Gardipee. Gardipee was sentenced to 13 years in prison for her role in the death of Jasmine's 11-month-old son Kaidynce Small.

A federal judge again disappointed both sides in Thursday's sentencing of a woman involved in the death of an 11-month-old Oct. 21 on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. He sentenced Cecilia Rose Gardipee to 160 months for assaulting and injuring Kaidynce Small, who died that day - the same sentence he imposed in April on her boyfriend and the child's father, Garrett "Kirby" LaFromboise.

Kaidynce's mother, Jasmine Small, and members of her family had asked for a sentence of life in prison, as they did for LaFromboise.

Gardipee's attorney, Jeffry Foster, had asked for as low as 31 months.

Foster reserved the right to appeal the length of the sentence, as LaFromboise already has done.

District Judge Brian Morris said he took into account the fact that Gardipee had no previous history, had pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators. He also had to take into account the severity of the crime, he said "which cannot be overstated," Morris said, "a senseless death of an innocent child that has ripped apart a family, a community and a tribe."

The toddler's injuries included skull fractures, rib fractures, bruising on his lips, bruising on his face and torso, cuts on his fingertips, and bleeding and bruising on his brain and spinal nerves and possible suffocation.

Morris also noted that due to the investigation starting very late after the death, little evidence was available to assign guilt in the child's death.

Gardipee told the judge that she is sorry.

"I am not sorry I am here today," she said. "I deserve it. I am sorry for what I did."

Sobbing through most of her speech, Gardipee said she takes responsibility for what she did and apologized to Kaidynce, whom she said she loved, and to the Small and LaFromboise families and to her own family - especially her and Kirby LaFromboise's two daughters.

"Now they have lost their brother, their mother and their father," she said.

But Jasmine Small accused Gardipee of glibly lying and crying false tears. She said Gardipee murdered her baby in jealousy over Small's relationship with LaFromboise - he fathered Kaidynce with Small while broken up with Gardipee before returning to her - and has destroyed her life. Small said she tries to overcome her hatred for Gardipee and LaFromboise but cannot.

"I hate them both. They should have been the ones who died Oct. 21, 2013, instead of my baby boy ... ," Small said. "I want you two coming out of prison in a body bag,"

Gardipee pleaded guilty to covering the toddler's mouth and nose with her hand and then shaking the child for 90 seconds when he wouldn't stop crying, using a force of nine on a scale of 1 to 10, she told investigators.

In April, Morris also sentenced LaFromboise to 160 months in prison - 13 years and four months. LaFromboise pleaded guilty to sticking his fingers down his son's throat and hitting him in the stomach when he wouldn't stop crying.

Second-degree murder charges against each were dropped as part of the plea agreements.

During both sentencing hearings, the defendants pointed the finger at each other, with LaFromboise's parents saying their son did nothing wrong and Gardipee was the cause of Kaidynce's death and Gardipee's attorney saying it was LaFromboise.

The two were caring for Kaidynce Oct. 21 in the basement apartment they shared.

Jasmine Small said Thursday that LaFromboise refused to acknowledge the child until a paternity test showed he was the father.

Foster, Gardipee's attorney, asked Morris to go light on the sentence, requesting a range of 31 to 44 months, noting that she pleaded guilty to assaulting and injuring Kaidynce, not to killing him.

Foster told Morris that Gardipee grew up in a broken, abusive home - her mother abandoned the family and her father was sentenced to federal prison while she was very young, and members of her family - and her boyfriend - abused her, he said.

She turned to alcohol and drugs, and in five years after graduating from high school had lost her dreams of going to college and pursuing a successful life, Foster said. He added that due to drinking heavily she had essentially blacked out off and on through the night and morning of Kaidynce's death, and doesn't really remember what happened - including the charge to which she pleaded guilty.

Clinical and forensic psychologist Donna Zook testified that Gardipee shows all the signs of someone suffering from mental illnesses due to a life of abuse and subjugation. She takes the blame for everything around her, and is easily dominated and refuses to confront the people in her life, Zook testified.

"If the weather changes, she thinks it's her fault," Zook said.

Over an objection by U.S. Attorney Danna Jackson, Zook also testified that, in her opinion, the evidence from Gardipee's confession used in the plea agreement is tainted due to improper interview techniques by the FBI.

Jackson said that not only did Gardipee plead guilty to the charge and that any objections to the interview or the plea agreement should have been raised much earlier, but that the symptoms to which Zook referred - including anxiety, distrust, irritability, depression - also could be due to sitting in jail awaiting sentencing.

Morris said he was in an untenable position. His job was sentencing two defendants who pleaded guilty to assault with each saying they did not cause the injuries that killed the toddler.

He said a large part of the problem was the lack of a quick investigation into the death of the child.

Both Gardipee and LaFromboise initially said Kaidynce's injuries were from his falling off of the bed. They were not charged until Dec. 5, a month-and-a-half after his death.

Due to the lack of evidence, Morris said, he could not determine who was more at fault in the death of Kaidynce.

"I realize that not everyone will be satisfied with this sentence, but with the evidence before me I believe it is the only sentence appropriate," he said.

But, he said, both participated in a heinous, abusive crime, noting that the number of injuries Kaidynce sustained indicate the abuse had been going on throughout the night, and were caused by the people in a position to protect him.

"You assaulted an 11-month-old child. There is no excuse for these actions ... ," Morris said. "He suffered in a manner no child should ever suffer."

 

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