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Judge refuses to change 25-to-life sentence for Marine convicted in death of infant

By TERI FIGUEROA | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: July 31, 2018

A father convicted of assault and voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 death of his infant daughter lost his bid Monday to have his lengthy sentence reduced.

The request for a lower sentence was the latest round in a legal battle over the sentence for Lee Trahan, who lived in Escondido with his wife and family at the time his eight-week-old daughter Willow died.

In 2015, a North County jury cleared Trahan, now 31, of second-degree murder but found him guilty of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. It also found him guilty of assault on a child causing death.

At his sentencing, the prosecutor argued for a 25-years-to-life punishment for the assault conviction — harsher than the 11-year maximum sentence that voluntary manslaughter carries.

The defense asked for probation, which is allowed under the law.

Vista Superior Court Judge Harry Elias found both options inappropriate, and instead opted for the 11-year sentence.

The prosecution filed an appeal challenging the sentence, arguing that the law required Elias to go with the potentially tougher sentence.

Last year, a three-judge panel from the 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego agreed.

In January, Elias resentenced Trahan, this time to 25 years to life. On Monday, Elias rejected a request that he reconsider the sentence.

“It’s been a long fight,” Deputy District Attorney Michelle Ialeggio said after the hearing. “Justice was finally served for Willow.”

Trahan, a former Marine who had been stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, contended at the trial that the fatal injury had been an accident — he had unintentionally banged Willow’s head on a door frame as he went to feed in the early morning hours of April 24, 2012.

Prosecutors said the injuries were too severe to be accidental, and also said the newborn had been injured before while in her father’s care.

Neither of Willow’s parents sought medical help the day of the head injury. She was rushed to the hospital three days later when she stopped breathing.

The baby — who, with her twin brother, had been born six-weeks premature — died nearly two weeks after the head injury.

The baby’s mother, Jessica Trahan, was convicted of misdemeanor child neglect for failing to quickly get medical help for the infant.

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