A couple accused of killing their 7-month-old baby in 2011 will be spending several decades behind bars.
William Leroy Dawes, 28, and Diana Dawes, 26, both pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in connection with the beating death of Serenity Dawes in June 2011.
Both defendants wept as they stood before Madison Circuit Judge Jean C. Logue in jail jumpsuits, handcuffs and leg shackles. No members of the public, except two reporters, were present at the hearing that was added to the docket earlier Wednesday.
William Dawes pleaded guilty to murder and first-degree criminal abuse, and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith recommended a total of 35 years in prison 35 on the murder charge and five on the abuse charge, which would run concurrently.
Diana Dawes pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and first-degree criminal abuse. Smith recommended a sentence of 20 years for manslaughter and five years on the abuse charge to run consecutively for a total of 25.
Diana Dawes originally had been indicted on a charge of complicity to murder, which carries the same penalty as a murder charge.
The Daweses will have to serve 85 percent of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole.
Smith said the evidence showed William Dawes is the one who assaulted the infant, while Diana Dawes did not report the abuse or get the child medical attention. She even tried to cover up her husband’s actions by blaming the baby’s bruises on a 12-year-old relative, Smith said.
During her plea, Diana Dawes admitted she didn’t do anything to save her child.
"My baby quit breathing when I was at work, and I didn’t report anything," Diana Dawes told the judge in a wavering voice.
Serenity stopped breathing June 29, 2011, when she was at home with her father, according to the Kentucky State Police. She was taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center and placed on life support but no brain activity was detected.
Serenity died June 30, 2011.
Smith said during the hearing that Serenity’s autopsy revealed the child had a broken leg, two broken ribs, a grab or ligature bruise are her arm, bruising on her body and her brain in parts was "liquefied."
Smith also said the baby’s frontal lobe was displaced and her eyes, which had retinal bleeding, were displaced in their sockets. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as complications from blunt force trauma.
Diana Dawes also has a child from a previous relationship who was 3 years old at the time of Serenity’s death. He is now in foster care.
The Daweses were scheduled to stand trial next Monday, but Logue denied a motion by their attorneys that day to delay the trial. Attorney Valetta Browne represented William Dawes, and Bobby Amburgey represented Diana Dawes.
The Daweses could have received life in prison if convicted on the original charges and sentenced to the maximum penalty.
"The fact the trial was not continued is not why we’re in here today," Browne said at the hearing. She added the change of plea was a proper resolution to the case.
"This was a difficult case," Browne said. "... We were ready for trial, (William) doesn’t want a trial."
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed @richmondregister.com
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