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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine sergeant accused in the beating death of his 6-year-old daughter in their Camp Foster home in October could face 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, sat calmly between his two lawyers during a preliminary hearing Thursday.

The prosecution argued Cisse should be court-martialed for murder, alleging he grew so frustrated with his daughter’s behavior that he struck her several times with his hands, shoved her and stomped on her back.

The 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 stopped breathing and was placed on life support, but she died the next day without regaining consciousness.

The investigating officer who ran the Article 32 hearing has about two weeks to make his recommendation on charges.

Naffy Cisse’s death was less than a week after her sixth birthday. She had been in her father’s custody just six weeks.

Maj. Gregory Palmer, the prosecutor, said Cisse confessed twice to investigators with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to hitting and stomping his daughter during an incident in their tower apartment the morning of Oct. 21.

It was the end of weeks of torment, Palmer said.

“In just a few short weeks, she had become so terrified of him that she literally pooped in her pants,” Palmer said. “And within the next hour and a half, he beat her to death.”

Palmer said 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.

In “excruciating detail” Cisse described to the agents what he did to his daughter, Palmer said.

“It’s startling to see in the videotapes how hard he described his stomping the child,” he said.

Lt. Col. David Jones, Cisse’s lead attorney, said the sergeant never used the word “stomp” in his confession.

“He never stomped that child,” he told the investigating officer in charge of the Article 32 hearing. “There’s no evidence of stomping.”

Navy Capt. James Caruso, the regional armed forces medical examiner, performed an autopsy on the girl Oct. 23, ruling the death a homicide. She had a fractured skull and significant bleeding and swelling of her brain.

“It would take a substantial amount of force for that type of injury,” he said, noting it was more than would have been caused by simply bumping her head in a fall in the bathtub.

The girl also had a large bruise on her back that could have been caused by someone stomping or stepping on her, he testified. Other fatal injuries included several lacerations to her liver, a ruptured bladder and internal bleeding, he said. She also had a fractured rib.

Cisse, in an unsworn testimony that meant he could not be cross-examined, said he paid support for his daughter since she was born and spent thousands of dollars in a four-year legal process to gain her custody.

“Did you stomp on your daughter,” Jones asked him.

“Absolutely no, sir,” Cisse said. “I did not stomp on Naffy.”

Palmer countered, arguing that 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 — and adapting to her new life.

“He was frustrated that she was not catching on faster and began striking her — using negative motivation,” Palmer said.

The “savage and unprovoked beating” merited Cisse being charged with murder under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he said.

Jones argued that, though Cisse might have been a “stern disciplinarian” and admitted to hitting the girl, his actions did not merit being charged with murder.


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