A political asylee from Togo was sentenced to 22 years in prison Monday for causing the death of his ex wife’s 6-year-old son.
Koffi Dogbevi, 25, admitted he was spanking Michael Ibarra for not cleaning his room when the boy fell down some stairs, suffering a massive head injury that proved fatal.
“I regret my actions,” Dogbevi told a presentence report writer. “I am not a bad person or a criminal. I made a huge mistake.”
In Togo, corporal punishment is considered incumbent upon responsible parents, Assistant Pima County Public Defender Brian Metcalf told Pima County Superior Court Judge Clark Munger.
His client did not act with a “malicious heart,” Metcalf said in asking for a 16-year prison sentence to be imposed.
On Aug. 3, 2010, paramedics went to Dogbevi’s home after receiving a call about an unconscious child and found Michael suffering from a head injury. Tests showed the boy suffered epidural and subdural hematomas because of a skull fracture that extended from the back of his head to the right side.
The child underwent two emergency surgeries and was on life support for eight days before it was removed and he died. At the time of his death, Michael was covered in bruises in various stages of healing, and an autopsy revealed he had two spinal fractures that occurred at different times. He also had a healed hand fracture.
Dogbevi was indicted on first-degree murder and child abuse charges. Michael’s mother, Monica Ibarra, was also indicted on child abuse charges. She admitted she didn’t protect her son or seek medical attention for him and was sentenced to two years in prison and 15 years’ probation last week.
Dogbevi pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a plea agreement that set the sentencing range at 16 to 22 years in prison instead of the normal 10 to 22-year range.
Michael’s aunt, Cathy Romero, presented a PowerPoint presentation prior to the sentencing Monday. She described Michael as a sweet child and a “true gentleman” who cared more for others than he did for himself. He loved Spiderman, chocolate and pizza.
Because of Dogbevi’s “declaration of abject monstrosity” Michael’s family will never be the same again, Romero said. Her daughter and surviving nephew suffer from nightmares, family and friends have abandoned them, her mother’s health has suffered and her sister is being sent to prison.
Monica Ibarra was permitted to attend the hearing, but was not permitted to speak because of her status as a co-defendant.
Prior to his sentencing, Dogbevi told a probation officer he didn’t think Ibarra, who divorced him following their arrest, should have to go to prison for something he did. He said he wanted her to remain free to raise their now 2-year-old son.
However, Dogbevi also disputed Ibarra’s contention that she was a victim of severe domestic violence. She has long maintained she could not seek help for herself and Michael for fear of being beaten or killed. She also said Dogbevi threatened to take the children to Africa.
Dogbevi recalled a lone incident in which they shouted and pushed each other and he threw a remote control.
Dogbevi moved to Ghana at 18 to avoid arrest and came to the United States the following year. He was granted political asylum in August 2006.
U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement has placed a hold on Dogbevi.
However, Deputy Pima County Attorney Ryan Schmidt told Munger he would prefer Dogbevi serve 100 percent of his time prior to ICE taking custody of him.
While the U.S. often deports immigrants convicted of crimes prior to their sentences being completed, Togo and the U.S. do not have an extradition agreement so it’s unclear what will happen to Dogbevi, said his other attorney, Margo Cowan.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org