Marine sergeant faces court-martial in daughter’s death
Stars and Stripes March 6, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine sergeant accused in the beating death of his 6-year-old daughter faces a general court- martial on a charge of murder.
Sgt. Bassa Cisse, 33, a native of the Ivory Coast assigned to Marine Wing Communications Squadron 18, 1st Marine Air Wing, was arraigned Tuesday in the Western Pacific Judicial Court, Keystone District, on a charge he killed his daughter from a previous relationship in Africa on Oct. 21.
Naffy Cisse’s death was less than a week after her sixth birthday. She had been in her father’s custody just six weeks.
Cisse, who has been in pretrial confinement since October, reserved his right to make a plea at a later date. He also deferred a request for a trial by jury or judge.
His court-martial is tentatively scheduled for June.
At a preliminary hearing Dec. 12, Maj. Gregory Palmer, the chief prosecutor, said Cisse had grown so frustrated with his daughter’s failure to adapt to her new life with his family that he struck her several times, shoved her and stomped on her back inside their tower apartment on Camp Foster.
At that hearing Cisse denied beating his daughter and said he had paid support for her since birth and spent thousands of dollars during a four-year legal process to gain custody of her.
Palmer contended that Cisse confessed twice to investigators with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to hitting and stomping his daughter during the incident. He said her brief stay with her father was a period of torment, in which Cisse, who had been a teacher in the Ivory Coast, was disappointed with his daughter’s progress in school. She had been removed from first grade and placed in kindergarten, according to court reports.
“He was frustrated that she was not catching on faster and began striking her — using negative motivation,” Palmer said at the preliminary hearing. “In just a few short weeks, she had become so terrified of him that she literally pooped in her pants.”
That seemed to have been the final straw, Palmer said. According to investigators, Cisse forced his daughter to strip and clean herself and her dirty clothing in the bathtub and hit her in the face when she cried. He later allegedly forced her, still naked, to lay the clothes out on a balcony to dry. That’s where he allegedly kicked her in the back.
The defense claimed the girl could have accidentally hit her head in the bathtub and that Cisse had tripped over her as she lay in a doorway and had not stomped on her.
The girl’s injuries, according to a forensic doctor who conducted her autopsy, were so severe that she had little chance of survival when she was rushed by her father to the emergency room at the U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester. She had a fractured skull and significant bleeding and swelling of her brain, the doctor said.
The doctor testified the girl had stopped breathing and was placed on life support, but died the next day without regaining consciousness. He ruled the death a homicide.