Friday, March 26, 2010

Dad gets life sentence for sexual assault, leaving toddler daughter out in cold to die (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

The jury just couldn't agree on whether dad WILLIAM PAGE should be put to death for the sexual assault of his 23-month-old daughter and her subsequent murder (she was left outside to freeze to death).

Father gets life sentence for killing baby
'My baby finally has justice,' says the Braddock girl's mother

Friday, March 26, 2010
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The jury didn't quite spare William Page's life, but they didn't take it either.

The group of seven men and five women on Thursday could not reach a unanimous decision on whether Mr. Page should be put to death for sexually assaulting and then leaving his 23-month-old daughter out in the cold overnight to die.

The split was 9 to 3 in favor of capital punishment.

Nyia Page's body was found in an overgrown, abandoned playground on Feb. 4, 2007, a day after she was reported missing by her parents.

She was frozen to the ground, wearing only a sweater. Investigators found Nyia's handprints in the snow around her, as well as tiny footprints.

Police arrested her father, claiming that Mr. Page had sexually assaulted the girl, and then left her to die so that she could not tell anyone what he'd done.

The jury convicted him of first-degree murder and aggravated indecent assault on Monday.

Though she had no visible reaction in court, Nyia's mother said she was happy with the ultimate sentence, which will be formally pronounced on June 21.

"I'm fine with the decision. My baby finally has justice," Darlene Robinson said.

Ms. Robinson said she hoped Mr. Page, 26, of Braddock, didn't get the death penalty.

"I wanted him to have life. I want him in general population. I hope he suffers. Just as well as my daughter suffered, I hope he suffers."

Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli understood the jury's deadlock.

"Any time you have a parent that kills their own child, you'll always have a jury that's going to struggle," he said. "It's so unnatural that I don't think these people were able to wrap their minds around it."

Defense attorney Christopher Patarini thought life without parole was the only reasonable punishment.

"I don't believe in the death penalty," he said. "The death penalty is unreasonable."

During a day of testimony, the defense presented several witnesses who described Mr. Page's childhood. He grew up in deplorable conditions, and was treated for mental health issues from a very young age following attempts to smother and choke his younger brother. A psychologist testified that he was autistic.

Mr. Tranquilli, though, discounted that testimony.

"Even if he were [autistic], how does that make him deserving of less blame?" he asked. "He stood there for 10 minutes in the freezing cold listening to his baby girl -- crying, screaming in pain. And that didn't bother him?"

In the last of the dramatic arguments and testimony that spanned two weeks, Mr. Tranquilli told the jury that Mr. Page did not deserve to ask for mercy.

"Nyia got betrayed by the one person in the world who should have cared about her more than anyone else," he said. "Was she confused? Was she afraid? Did she wonder why? Can a 2-year-old child feel the emotion of betrayal?

"Did he even care?"

Both before and after the jury announced it could not reach a decision, Mr. Page proclaimed his innocence.

"Of course I feel bad about the situation, but all I can do is presume my innocence 'til it's proven," he said.

He claimed he did not receive a fair trial and will appeal the guilty verdict.

As for Ms. Robinson, the recently married woman has a 3-month-old son and continues to rebuild her life.

"[We'll] push all this behind," she said. "Hopefully we can start working on Nyia's playground, and bring some happiness into our lives."

The family decided two years ago to turn the spot where Nyia's body was found into a playground for the Rankin community.

They ran out of money, but hope to start a fund this spring.

"I just want to have a place for my children to go to have a place to sit down and remember Nyia."

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