An attorney called his client “deranged” just before a judge sentenced the man to prison for biting and beating his two-year-old daughter to death in what officials said was an attempt to make her gay.
Genesee Circuit Judge Joseph J. Farah said Monday, July 21, that the allegations against Donovan Lamar Haynes were “astonishing” and among the most unconscionable he’s heard during his time on the bench.
Haynes, 23, was sentenced Monday to 18 years, 9 months to 40 years in prison after pleading no contest to second-degree murder for the beating death of his daughter, Ti’Airra Woodward. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such at sentencing.
Farah also sentenced him to serve a concurrent 5-15 years in prison for first-degree child abuse.
The sentence was agreed to by both sides as part of the plea agreement.
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said the victim’s family was in agreement with the agreement.
Before Farah handed down his sentence, he read briefly from a pre-sentence investigation report that outlined the circumstances surrounding the girl’s death.
The report claimed that Haynes beat the girl in an attempt to turn her gay in hopes that she would avoid men like him, who had a history of treating women poorly.
“You don’t beat her in hopes she’s going to turn gay,” Farah said, adding that Haynes should have used his own life experience to teach his daughter how to avoid problem men.
The judge said Haynes also beat the girl in an attempt to toughen her up.
However, Farah added Haynes’ actions made it so no one would ever have to worry about the girl being tough.
“Dad took care of that,” Farah said. “He took care of it in one fell swoop.”
Ti’Airra was pronounced dead at Hurley Medical Center after she stopped breathing at a home on Donal Drive in Flint Township in what police call a child abuse case.
A medical examiner’s report indicated she died of internal bleeding from a lacerated liver.
Adult human bite marks were also found all over the girl’s body, police said.
Prosecutors said Ti’Airra was found unresponsive in the basement of Haynes’ mother’s Flint Township home.
Attorney Elbert Hatchett, who represented Haynes, had strong words for the man he was hired to represent.
“This case is a case that defies reason, logic, common sense,” Hatchett said. “(It’s a) tragedy to see the life of an innocent child snuffed out for no reason at all.”
Hatchett said Haynes is “deranged” and that he needs to undergo psychological counseling while in prison.
“I don’t have any sympathy for him,” Hatchett said of his client. “Hopefully, judge, he will repent.”
Ti’Airra’s mother, Nakeesha Woodward, left the court in tears after briefly addressing Farah before Haynes was sentenced. She returned to the courtroom in time to hear her daughter’s killer get sentenced to prison.
“I lost a child,” a tearful Woodward said as she lobbied Farah for a stiff maximum sentence.
State sentencing guidelines would have allowed Haynes to be sentenced to more than 31 years in prison if a jury convicted him of second-degree murder, according to Farah.
Haynes also initially faced charges of open murder, first-degree murder and torture that could have earned him life in prison without parole if convicted.
Before being sentenced to prison, Haynes attempted to withdraw his no contest plea.
Haynes told Farah that he felt his attorney could have secured a plea agreement that included less prison time.
He addressed the court briefly before Farah handed down his sentence, thanking his family for their support and the court’s time in hearing his case.
Hatchett, however, said that his client was being pressured by family members to take the case to trial rather than go forward with the plea agreement.
“There is no likelihood — none — that he would be found not guilty by a jury of his peers,” Hatchett said.
However, Leyton said his office pursued the plea agreement after flaws developed with the case.
“We had some concerns about the testimony of a key witness,” Leyton said.
Farah refused to let Haynes withdraw his plea, saying that a withdrawal was not in the interest of justice.
“I felt that he was playing with the court,” Woodward said. “He has no remorse.”