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Child Abuse Charge Upgraded to Murder after Infant Dies

03-Oct-2016

A Tulsa father has been charged with first degree murder after his 3-month-old daughter died of injuries consistent with child abuse. 

Reports say Kentrell Thomas, 22, was arrested last week on a felony child neglect complaint after a doctor notified police that an infant had been brought to the Thursday afternoon. The child's mother told the doctor that her baby had rolled off of a bed the week prior, but that she seemed fine after a short crying spell. However, on Thursday morning, the mother says, she noticed that the baby's head appeared swollen and that her arms and legs "tensed up" as if the baby were having seizure.

The doctor examined the baby and allegedly found evidence of severe abuse that was not consistent with the mother's story, and police arrested Thomas, the baby's father.

The infant succumbed to her injuries and died over the weekend. Since her death, the complaint against Thomas has been upgraded to first degree murder. 

State law in 21 O.S. § 843.5 outlines the penalties for child abuse. Section A of the statue says that anyone who "willfully or maliciously" engages in child abuse is guilty of a felony punishable by a maximum of life in prison. Likewise, someone convicted of enabling child abuse, or failure to protect a child from abuse, faces a lifetime prison sentence.

If a child dies of injuries from abuse, then the person who harmed the child will be charged with first degree murder, regardless of intent to take the child's life.

In 21 O.S. § 701.7, Oklahoma law lists several acts of homicide that qualify as first degree murder. One of the most commonly known definitions of first degree murder includes "malice aforethought"--or the intentional, premeditated killing of another person. However, there are a few circumstances under which a person may be charged with first degree murder without having premeditation or intent to take another's life. One of these is felony murder, in which a person is charged with first degree murder if someone dies in the commission of a specified violent felony. The other is child abuse murder, in which a child dies from injuries sustained in abuse.

Both first degree murder and child abuse are "85 Percent Crimes." These are violent crimes and sex offenses specified in 21 O.S. § 13.1 that require a person convicted to serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Click here to learn more.



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