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Toddler death

2 years for Racine mom in toddler’s death

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Cheyenna White court

**FILE PHOTO** Cheyenna M. White, 23, cries without stopping as her preliminary hearing is adjourned Thursday November 17, 2011. / Mark Hertzberg

RACINE — The Racine mother sat clad in dark green jail scrubs, at times dissolving into sobs as she listened to the sheer brutality of the injuries that her little girl suffered at the hands of her boyfriend.

But prosecutors contended that Cheyenna M. White, 24, failed to take her daughter for medical treatment — for eight hours — after her boyfriend body-slammed the cherubic-cheeked little girl more than a dozen times to the ground while he baby-sat White’s youngest child. And in a quiet Racine County courtroom on Friday, it was White’s turn to be sentenced for her role in the Oct. 20, 2011, death of her 2-year-old daughter, Donnasia Jackson.

“The loss of my child is more than what any human can do to me,” she told Boyle through tears. “I’m sorry that I trusted someone with their lives.”

Visibly conflicted between compassion for White, and meting out punishment for her daughter’s death, Racine County Circuit Judge Tim Boyle sentenced her to two years in prison plus four years on extended supervision.

“It’s hard-pressed for me to say Ms. White is a bad person. ...But I also have to do what is fair for this child,” Boyle said.

White pleaded no contest in October to child neglect resulting in death, which is a felony.

Her boyfriend, Andre O. Knighton, was accused of hitting the toddler’s buttocks with his flip-flop and body-slamming her to the ground 12 to 15 times on Oct. 19, 2011, while White was at work and Donnasia was left in his charge. The toddler died the next day, after suffering extensive head and abdominal injuries.

Donnasia had a tear in her liver and her pancreas was split in two.

Autopsy results showed she suffered from a skull fracture. In fact, Donnasia’s brain turned to a jelly-like consistency because of “significant injuries” to her head, autopsy results showed.

“If I had seen anything that would have led me to believe (she was so badly injured), I would have took her to the emergency room. But there wasn’t,” White said during her sentencing, dissolving into tears.

The abuse occurred over a several-hour period, Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete said.

“What happened to her was one of the most brutal beatings I have seen in my career,” he said during Friday’s sentencing. “Anyone looking at this child would know there was something horribly wrong with her. The injuries were overwhelming to her poor little body.”

Defense attorney Michael Barth admitted during the hearing that he has been stalling in this case. But he said it was because White has been so emotionally fragile he didn’t think she could sit through the recitation of Donnasia’s life-ending injuries.

“I am a father. There is a strong urge to protect her,” Barth explained. “She knows she was wrong and was beating herself up. She is one that internalizes almost everything.”

She now is on anti-depressants, he said, and serving 18 months in prison after her probation was revoked in an earlier criminal case. The two-year prison term in Donnasia’s death won’t kick in until after she has completed this sentence.

“This case has utterly destroyed her,” Barth said, his voice growing more quiet in the otherwise silent courtroom. “She has a need to punish herself.”

Barth had asked for probation for White, saying she has been consumed with punishing herself for Donnasia’s death.

White’s older two children, a son and daughter, are living with her brother — whom Barth said he believes has agreed to adopt them.

Knighton pleaded no contest in July to first-degree reckless homicide. He was sentenced in November to 30 years in prison plus 20 years on extended supervision.


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