Crime & Courts

Man gets life sentence for killing toddler

A judge ruled Thursday that DeWhite Cameron will serve — back to back — a life sentence for murdering 2-year-old Damion Thomas and a 14-year sentence for battering the child's twin brother in 2008.

That means he will serve a minimum of about 32 years in prison before he is eligible for parole for the death and beating of the two toddlers left in his care.

Cameron's attorney, Lee McMaster, argued that as a human being, Cameron was "entitled to respect and mercy." McMaster asked Judge Greg Waller to allow the sentences to run at the same time rather than consecutively.

But in announcing his choice of consecutive sentences, Waller said: "Damion Thomas also was a human being," as is his brother.

Waller added that "the evidence is clear that Mr. Cameron did not give them the respect."

Waller and the jurors heard evidence that both boys had been severely beaten.

What Cameron did to the boys was "something terrible," Waller said in court Thursday.

According to the prosecution's calculation, Cameron, 28, will have to serve about 32 years in prison before being eligible for parole consideration. That timeframe assumes he receives credit for good behavior in prison.

In May, a jury convicted Cameron of first-degree murder in Damion's death and aggravated battery for serious injuries to his identical twin.

Cameron, the live-in boyfriend of the twins' mother, was caring for the children at the time emergency crews responded to their house at 13th and Erie. Their mother, Shaneekwa Saunders, was at work. She pleaded guilty to aggravated child endangerment and was put on probation.

When Waller asked Cameron on Thursday whether he had anything to say, he responded, "No, sir."

Prosecutor Shannon Wilson told Waller that Cameron committed separate crimes against two children and therefore deserved separate, back-to-back sentences.

"This defendant should not be allowed to get two for one," Wilson argued.

"The state does not seek revenge but justice."

Waller also rejected the defense attorney's motions for acquittal and a new trial. McMaster had argued that the evidence was "purely circumstantial."

Prosecutor Kim Parker and Waller disagreed with McMaster, saying the evidence was sufficient.

In May, after the jury announced its guilty verdict and lawyers from both sides got to speak with them, Parker said she thought that jurors based their decision, among other things, on:

* Testimony that Cameron was the only adult with the children when they were found with fresh injuries.

Experts also testified that the twins had healing and scarred-over injuries.

* Things that the twins' older brother — the "single eyewitness" — told people after emergency crews arrived.

According to testimony, one of the things the older brother, who was nearly 4 at the time, said was, "My daddy hurt my brother. He make my brother not breathe."

* The conclusion that Cameron's actions before and after emergency crews arrived didn't make sense.

Prosecutors had told jurors that while Damion lay on the floor inside not breathing, Cameron took time to take out trash that contained a bloody towel.

Testing found that the blood was consistent with that of the identical twins, who had blood on their faces when emergency crews responded.