A man arrested last year for selling drugs and contributing to the death of a baby girl was sentenced to up to eight years in prison, which created outrage in an upstate New York courtroom on Friday.
The Post Star reports that Joshua Bennett, 35, was convicted of criminal negligent homicide in connection with the February, 2015, death of 13-month-old Kayleigh Cassell. He learned that he’ll serve six-to-eight years in prison. An autopsy last year revealed that the baby died from cocaine and heroin ingestion. Bennett, along with the baby’s mother, 27-year-old Rachel Ball, were both charged after police found traces of heroin and cocaine in the baby’s system and throughout the couple’s Kingsbury home.
The courtroom uproared in protest when Washington County, New York, Judge Kelly McKeighan read Bennett’s light sentence. One woman called Bennett a liar after he told McKeighan that he was truly sorry and didn’t mean hurt Kayleigh. Others sobbed and hugged each other. McKeighan didn’t seem convinced with Bennett’s apology. The judge said that Bennett was only concerned for himself since he refused to acknowledge the part he played in the baby’s death.
“You and Rachel Ball were responsible for killing that child.”
Robin Sorrell, the baby’s great aunt, who had custody of the baby for a short period of time, said that Kayleigh was a happy baby.
“Not a day goes by that she is not thought of or a tear is not shed.”
As Bennett spoke about his love for the baby, June Terpening, Ball’s great aunt, began screaming at him. The yelling continued until she was physically escorted out of the courtroom. While being led down a flight of stairs, Terpening began crying and saying Bennett killed Kayleigh and is “getting nothing,” insinuating that his prison sentence is much too short.
“He killed her, he killed her and he’s getting nothing.”
As part of a plea deal, Bennett admitted to having cocaine and heroine in his home. Ball admitted that a few times in the past, she put heroin in Kayleigh’s bottle to get her to settle down. After a witness came forward and told authorities what Ball said, previous manslaughter and murder charges against Bennett were dropped to criminally negligent homicide. He’ll also serve four years in prison on drug charges.
Although the evidence in the case couldn’t prove who actually drugged Kayleigh, Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan stated “that Kayleigh was in the way” of both Ball and Bennett’s drug sales and drug use. Yet, according to Garfield Raymond, Bennett’s defense lawyer, the toxicology report indicated Kayleigh died after Ball put heroin in the baby’s bottle.
“The toxicology report showed that Rachel is the one who put the heroin in the bottle. He [Bennett] put drugs into the house, which gave Rachel the drugs and potentially the child.”
Ball faces her sentencing on March 4. She also took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and drug charges. For her cooperation with authorities against Bennett, she’ll face a reduced sentence of eight-to-11-and-a-half years in prison.
Meanwhile, Sorrell is taking care of Ball’s older child, but she stated that she never thought Ball would ever be capable of what she did. Sorrell also stated that Joshua Bennett didn’t get sentenced to enough time, indicating that justice for little Kayleigh has ultimately failed.
“In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t think she would do something like that ever. Family is family, but when you’re wrong you’re wrong.”
[Photo by Washington County District Attorney’s Office]