ST. GEORGE — A Cedar City woman accused of playing part in the 2017 death of her toddler was sentenced to serve up to 15 years in prison, Monday.
Cherokee May Dea, 25, pleaded guilty in February in 5th District Court to second-degree felonies of child abuse homicide and child abuse that intentionally caused serious injury. She also pleaded guilty to two third-degree felonies for child abuse that inflicted serious physical injury through recklessness.
Each second-degree felony carries a one-to-15 year prison term while the third-degree felonies each carry a zero-to-five year term. If served consecutively, Dea would be facing 40 years in prison. Instead, Judge Matthew Bell ordered the sentences to be served concurrently, meaning Dea could face up to 15 years in prison.
The judge also gave Dea credit for time served and recommended she receive treatment while in prison, according to court records.
Dea originally faced a first-degree felony murder charge, as well as other charges, prior to their being modified as the court case forward.
Brendan Russell Dalton, 30, also of Cedar City, who was Dea’s boyfriend at the time of her daughter’s death was also hit with similar charges in connection with the incident. He pleaded not guilty in May 2018. His next court appearance is set for June.
The charges originate from the April 17, 2017 death of Dea’s 14-month-old daughter who showed signs of possible physical abuse believed to be connected to her death.
According to court records, Dalton told police that he had been at Dea’s home where they were watching a movie when the baby started vomiting. They gave the child a bath and went back to watching the movie. The couple then had an argument and Dea stepped outside for a cigarette.
During that time, the baby started crying and Dalton said he picked her up to soothe her when she began to breathe heavily and lost consciousness. Dalton alerted Dea and the two attempted CPR, but the child was unresponsive before being taken to Cedar City Hospital.
A CAT scan performed at the hospital determined the toddler had suffered brain injuries. The toddler was quickly transported by Intermountain Life Flight to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City where she was placed on life support before being declared dead April 17.
At the time of her death, the child was found to have head injuries resulting in subdural hemorrhage and ischemic injury to the brain. Additional signs of injury, such as fractures to two ribs and both arms were also found, according to a probable cause statement filed by Cedar City Police.
An autopsy conducted by the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the official cause of death was homicide due to blunt force trauma to the brain, which was noted as likely being caused shortly before the baby went unresponsive, according to court records.
Morphine was also detected in the baby’s body at the time of her death.
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