The appeal of a daycare provider who was sentenced to life in prison after admitting to suffocating a 4-month-old daughter was denied by the Supreme Court of Delaware.
DeJoynay Ferguson’s claims that her due process rights were violated because a Superior Court judge refused to take into account mitigating evidence and the arguments she provided were dismissed by a three-judge panel on Wednesday. Ferguson further asserted that the judge had given her sentence “with a closed mentality” and “for the sole purpose of revenge.”
Justice James Vaughn Jr. for the court wrote, “While it is clear that Ferguson’s mitigation evidence did not influence the judge, on this record we cannot conclude that the judge ignored, or failed to consider, the mitigation evidence and argument she offered, or sentenced her with a closed, vindictive, or biased mind.
Ferguson, 22, pled guilty to six counts of first-degree child abuse, two acts of second-degree child abuse, and first-degree murder by abuse or neglect last year. The plea came after she was indicted on 52 charges of child abuse against five children at the Little People Child Development Center in Bear, along with a murder charge. Three of the five kids have admitted their culpability.
Ferguson, who was 18 when she started working at the daycare center in January 2019, allegedly started systemically abusing infants a few months later after being given control of the infant area on her own “with little experience or training.”
In her child abuse case, a former daycare worker from Delaware was given a life term.
In her child abuse case, a former daycare worker from Delaware was given a life term. The Fox News
Ferguson was seen on camera physically beating two more children and smothering three children on 28 different occasions, often many times each day.
Prosecutors stated in their appellate brief that Ferguson twice choked the infant until the child lost consciousness, waited for the child to wake up, and then again covered the child’s face. “Ferguson generally didn’t look upset when he covered the kids’ faces; instead, he seemed to be waiting quietly for the inevitable result. When Ferguson was waiting for the child on the changing table to stop breathing, she occasionally bobbled her head, danced to the music, or laughed foolish with the other kids in the room who were watching.”
On September 5, 2019, Ferguson killed Isabella Talton by covering the child’s mouth and nose with her hand for more than three minutes. This was the culmination of the abuse. Ferguson originally denied hurting the girl, but when presented with video footage, she admitted to acting aggressively because “several kids were crying at the same time,” according to police.
Between July 2019 and September 2019, Ferguson repeatedly used the suffocation of the infants, according to Vaughn. She admitted to the police that she improved her suffocating technique over time.
Prosecutors claim that Ferguson admitted to a defense psychologist that she changed from covering the kids’ faces twice or more in quick succession to once but for a longer length of time because it was more effective. Ferguson added that she started using gloves “in order to not get the child’s spit on her hands” and that she started restricting a child’s breathing with two hands rather than one.
Ferguson’s guilty pleas carried a mandated minimum sentence of 27 years and a maximum term of life plus 154 years. She received a 12-year prison term for child abuse and a life sentence for murder from the judge.
Prior to sentencing, the defense presented a psychological assessment highlighting the “neurological immaturity” of teenagers like Ferguson and claiming that she had bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, was still traumatized by the death of her father three years prior and had other mental health issues. A letter of regret from Ferguson and seven character letters from her family and friends were also provided by the defense.
The prosecution presented 11 video surveillance recordings as well as written testimonials from the relatives of the victims. They suggested a 65-year prison term, noting aggravating elements such as the victim’s frailty, prior abuse, and severe cruelty.
Before passing judgment on Ferguson, the sentencing court also listened to testimony from both Ferguson’s mother and the parents of the victims. “Not only in its cruelty but in the absolute wicked abuse of trust left in the hands of caregivers by parents with little or no choice in the matter,” he said, describing the situation as stunning.
The sentencing judge stated, “At the end of the day, I am unable to conclude that a sentence of a term of years is the right and fair sentence. “I find it impossible to reconcile the prospect of Ms. Ferguson’s unavoidable release with the thought of killing a 4-month-old child through suffocation. This is especially true if the baby was smothered to death at the end of a pattern of smothering them to keep them motionless while having their diapers changed.”