Convicted baby-killer sent to prison
Akeem Whitfield will spend the next 26 years to life in state prison for killing his girlfriend’s 10-month-old daughter by beating and burning her at the Woodridge Motel last year.
Judge Craig J. Doran sentenced Whitfield shortly after 10 a.m to 25 years to life for second-degree murder as well as one to 3 years for menacing and welfare fraud convictions, which he pleaded guilty to shortly after he was found guilty of killing Iyonna Brown.
"This judge belives you are an extreme threat to the safety of the public," said Doran.
Whitfield moments earlier gave the judge a several-minutes long earful in which he criticized investigators and continued to proclaim his innocence.
"I am beyond sorry for her death – I wish it was my life instead of hers. I would give anything to have her alive today," Whitfield said.
The baby’s mother, Heather Brown, is to be sentenced at 2 p.m. today. She pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter, weeks before her trial was to begin.
A jury convicted Whitfield Feb. 28 of second-degree murder for killing the baby by breaking her skull in three places and burning her on her legs, feet and genitals.
Whitfield faced a maximum of 25 years to life in prison for the murder conviction, as well as one to three additional years for other, unrelated charges of menacing and trying to steal Social Services benefits..
According to the prosecution, Heather Brown had left Iyonna in Whitfield’s care last May 30 at their cramped room in the Woodridge Motel while she went to Geneva for job-training. When she returned to the motel, about 6 p.m., she found the baby injured but did not call for help until just before midnight, when it was too late. Iyonna was pronounced dead at Thompson Hospital a short while later.
Whitfield’s attorney, Robert Tucker, argued in the trial that the baby’s injuries were not intentionally caused, but rather, had happened in a terrible accident. Though he changed his story several times, Whitfield told police that the baby had rolled off the bed in the motel room and gotten entangled in the cord of an electric frying pan filled with hot water, oil and sausages. The pan and its contents, he said, spilled on the baby, and he kicked the pan to get it off of her.
Whitfield was sent back to the Ontario County Jail to await transport to Elmira Correctional Facility. He and Brown have been jailed since they were indicted by a grand jury.
Brown has been represented by attorney Robert Zimmerman. In addition to the manslaughter charge, she also pleaded guilty last month to charges accusing her of lying to collect welfare benefits from the county Department of Social Services and of lying about the hours she worked for an agency called the Center for Disability Rights.
Doran told Brown when she pleaded guilty that he would sentence her to an “indeterminate term” that ranged from three to nine years or four to 12 years for the manslaughter conviction. She is to be sentenced, concurrently, to 1 1/3 to four years in prison for the welfare and work-related charges.
Jessica Pierce can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 250, or at email@example.com.