Quentin Evans was sentenced to 45 years in prison after a jury found him guilty Thursday of homicide by child abuse in the death of his 6-week-old daughter, Kaidence.
Kaidence died in the early morning hours of Jan. 23, 2014, at a home on Wright Street in Rock Hill. A forensic pathologist testified this week that Kaidence had multiple bruises, a broken collarbone and bleeding around her spine and subdural hematomas in her brain caused by rapid and repetitive acceleration and deceleration, or shaking the baby.
The pathologist and several other law enforcement officials testified during the four-day trial that Kaidence’s injuries were consistent with child abuse.
Evans’ attorney, Dave Cook, presented the alternate theory that Kaidence rolled off the bed and fell between the bed and the wall, causing her injuries and ultimately, her death. The attorney said Evans, who has two prior convictions on misdemeanor drug charges, “yanked” the baby up by her arm and she seemed to go back to sleep, but when Evans looked at her a short time later, she wasn’t breathing.
During closing arguments, Cook cautioned jurors to be careful of the “CSI effect” and argued the pathologist was biased and that investigators only sought out evidence that reinforced their child abuse theory.
Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor, both in his closing arguments and in his questioning of Evans, who took the stand Thursday, pointed out the inconsistencies with Evans’ story about the day and night leading up to Kaidence’s death.
During the investigation, Evans changed the order and timeline of events several times. In his initial interviews with investigators, which were played in court for the jury, Evans said Kaidence had been up all night screaming, but he later changed his story to say that she had not cried all night.
Evans’ mother, father and brother all testified that Kaidence had not cried or been fussy while she was with Evans.
“You will drive yourself crazy listening to all the variations of (Evans’) story,” Brackett said to the jury.
Brackett said that many of the statements Evans made during the investigation were incriminating because he seemed to know so many details about Kaidence’s injuries before investigators told him about them and said many of the things Evans said were “bizarre and incomprehensible.”
Evans, Brackett said, could have been frustrated and tired of caring for Kaidence all day and hurt her by grabbing her neck, hitting her head on something, squeezing her hard enough to cause bruising and break her collarbone and shaking her until she finally stopped crying because she was dying.
Even if Evans did hurt his daughter by accident, the fact he noticed her neck was limp and her head was “flopping around,” according to Evans’ own statements, not acting immediately was reason enough to convict him, Brackett said.
“You could convict him for doing it and you could convict him for not doing anything about it,” the solicitor said to the jury.
After the verdict was read and Evans was sentenced, Kaidence’s aunt Talisha Banks, said Kaidence’s death, Evans’ arrest and the trial have been “rough” on their entire family. While happy it was over and there was some closure, Banks said 45 years is not a long enough punishment for what Evans did to Kaidence.
Before the sentence was announced by Judge J. Derham Cole, Banks stood before the court and spoke, saying her family forgave Evans.
“At the end of the day, we don’t hate him or his family,” she said after the sentencing. “But it’s hard to explain to the other kids in our family what he did and why Kaidence isn’t coming back.”
Kaidence’s mother, Kierra Banks, was in the courtroom for most of the trial but was not there Thursday for personal reasons.
After the verdict, Brackett, who called Evans’ verdict and sentence “entirely justified” said Kaidence’s life and death should serve as a message and warning to parents about the dangers of getting angry at young children. Parents who feel themselves getting dangerously frustrated at their babies should put the baby in a safe place, walk away, calm down and ask for help.
“Mr. Evans, he got frustrated, he lost his patience,” Brackett said, and he did something he couldn’t take back.
Rachel Southmayd • 803-329-4072