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SALT LAKE CITY -- A teenage father pleads guilty in the death of his 1-month-old daughter. The plea deal spares the teen from a possible murder conviction that carries a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
Cleotis Shipman,18, pleaded guilty to child abuse homicide. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the murder and aggravated sexual abuse charges.
When the judge asked Shipman if he willingly admitted to child abuse homicide, Shipman hesitated before answering, "Yes, your honor." Because Shipman hesitated, the judge asked him the question a second time. That time, Shipman answered immediately and wiped away tears.
He had absolutely no intent to kill his child. It was a dreadful accident.
–Catherine Lilly, Cleotis Shipman's attorney.
Shipman's attorney Catherine Lilly said, "He lost his child in all of this too. He has always accepted his responsibility, his role in this, and at the end of the day, he lost his daughter."
Prosecutors charged Shipman in 2007 after he admitted to shaking his 1-month-old daughter Qiana Marie Shipman.
Prosecutors say the baby was in his care when she was hurt. They say she died from a fatal head injury from repeated blows or shaking. Shipman admitted he shook the baby because she was crying.
When the crime was committed, child abuse homicide was a second-degree felony.
The Legislature made it a first-degree felony last year. As part of the plea deal, Shipman agreed to plead to the first-degree felony charge that carries a penalty of five years to life.
Still, it spares him a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life had he been found guilty of murder.
Shipman's family and friends showed up to support him and were emotional. They declined to make any statements.
A judge will sentence Shipman next month. His attorney says the lesson to be learned from this case is education for young parents.