03/11/12 — Father pleads guilty to abuse, murder

View Archive

Father pleads guilty to abuse, murder

By Gary Popp
Published in News on March 11, 2012 1:50 AM

Full Size


Ronald Smith sits in Wayne County Superior Court on Thursday. Smith pleaded guilty to charges related to the death of his daughter, Diamond Smith.

A 22-year-old Goldsboro man was sentenced in Wayne County Superior Court Thursday to 33 to 42 years in prison for killing his 6-month-old daughter Diamond in October 2009.

Ronald Everette Smith pleased guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of felonious child abuse for his actions while watching the baby in the family's trailer home on Hines Drive while the child's mother was at work.

Diamond's mother, Doni-esha Elouise Core, was pregnant with the couple's second child at the time of Diamond's death.

Police charged Ms. Core, who was 21, Oct. 23, 2009, with negligent child abuse and serious bodily injury in connection with the death.

Ms. Core was released later in the day on a $15,000 bond.

Police commented in 2009 that they did not believe Ms. Core was directly involved in Diamond's death, but the charges are a result of putting the child in a position of being harmed.

The baby with whom she was pregnant of the time of her daughter's death is now 21 months old and in the care of Ms. Core's parents.

Diamond was airlifted Oct. 14 to Pitt Memorial Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries, which included bleeding to the brain and fractured ribs, several days later on Oct. 16.

Smith was represented by his court-appointed attorney, Steven Fisher of Greenville.

During the plea hearing, Assistant District Attorney Terry Yeh read excerpts from Smith's multiple interviews with Goldsboro police to the court and presiding Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones.

Investigators interviewed Smith four times in the days after Diamond was taken to the hospital and when he was arrested on Oct. 20.

During the initial interview, he told investigators that he fed Diamond at 2 a.m. on Oct. 14 and found her later that morning at 9:45 a.m. lying upside down and unresponsive on the edge of the air mattress where the entire family slept.

He told investigators that he performed CPR on Diamond until Ms. Core returned home.

He claimed that Diamond likely received her injuries by falling off the mattress and hitting her head on several tools lying on the floor beside the bed.

While at Pitt Memorial, Diamond was put on life support and classified as brain dead from the severe injuries.

"The medical evidence became clear that Diamond was a victim of abuse, abuse of head injuries and injuries to her body so (Goldsboro police) began to do follow-up interviews," Ms. Yeh said.

She then read from a later interview where Smith provided investigators with additional information of the events leading to his daughter's death.

"On this particular interview, your honor, he says that, 'After Doniesha left, Diamond was asleep. I got her up and took her clothes off so she could take a bath. She was hollering pretty hard because I dropped her. I didn't want to be bothered. I shook her and yelled, "What is wrong with you?" and I threw her hard on the bed. I was frustrated. She probably hit the wall. I just left and didn't check on her until the morning. She cried for a few minutes. I came back to feed her the following morning. That is when I found her at 9:45 (a.m.). She wasn't breathing. She hit her head,'" Ms. Yeh read.

Ms. Yeh also quoted from Smith's interview on the day of his arrest.

"He said, 'I didn't call 911 because I was scared. I knew she was in pain. She was hollering. When I did CPR, Diamond was kind of cold. She was gasping for air. I am guessing when you have your last breath right before you die, she was making funny breathing noises. That was about 10 o'clock. That is when Doniesha was there and we took her to the hospital,'" Ms. Yeh read.

At the time of the murder, Smith was taking anger management classes for an incident in June 2009 that led to him being charged with assault on a female. Ms. Core was the victim.

Ms. Core had told police during the investigation that Smith had trouble coping Diamond's crying and that she was afraid of leaving the child alone with Smith because of his anger issues.

Ms. Yeh said Diamond's mother had indicated during the investigation that Smith had placed his hand over Diamond's mouth on several occasions.

Ms. Core is also facing a count of felony child abuse.

For each count of child abuse, Jones sentenced Smith to 80 to 105 months. For the charge of second-degree murder Smith was given 237 to 294 months.

Before handing down the sentence, Jones gave Diamond's grandparents the opportunity to address the court.

"We forgive you because we are Christians," said Deborah Dos Santos, Diamond's grandmother, to Smith. "We will always have a place in our hearts for you, but we have lost our jewel, Diamond."