15 Year Sentence for Beating Death of DC Toddler

The grief of Dominic Dwayne Kingsbury Jr.’s family was palpable Friday as, throughout the morning, Steven Cephas stood before them to be sentenced.

Their moans, sniffles, cries, and, once, angry words, permeated every corner of the courtroom, as they felt again the loss of their 20-month old son, grandson and nephew. He was brutally beaten to death while in Cephas’ care when his mother was at work.

Not even Cephas’ attorney, nor Judge William Jackson, were immune to the emotion.

I’ve been on this bench nineteen years now,” said Jackson, his face appearing grim and gray above the judge’s robe. “Every time I’d thought I’d seen the worst case, I’d see another. This case is inexcusable. I tried my best to look for some mitigation here and I could find none.”

He sentenced Cephas to 15 years and five months in prison for the crime of voluntary manslaughter.

According to the government’s evidence, Cephas was babysitting Kingsbury the night of Nov. 8, 2010 and became upset when the child awoke while Cephas was playing video games. According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, Cephas “became enraged and forcibly hit the child in the head and body and threw him into a wall.”

Kingsbury suffered multiple injuries and died at 3:17 that morning.

My grandson was my heart. My grandson was my joy. My grandson was my everything,” Denise George stuttered through tears at sentencing. “I would like to ask why? Why did you brutally murder my grandson? Why did you murder my grandson?”

There were no answers to the question Jordan posed. Cephas pleaded guilty to the count of voluntary manslaughter before a preliminary hearing was held in the case and on Friday Cephas did not address the court.

Jason Tully however, Cephas’ attorney, turned his back to the court, and, his hand held over his heart, addressed Kingsbury’s family.

On behalf of all the staff who worked on the case, he said, “I offer our deepest, sincerest apologies for your loss. I have three young children and I’m so sorry for your loss. Certainly Dominic’s family is in all our prayers.”

While Cephas did not address the court, one of his attorneys read two letters on his behalf: one addressed to Kingsbury and one addressed to Kingsbury’s mother.

To the child he wrote: “I wanted the best for you out of life. I’m sad your gone. I’ll never forget how bright you made our lives. I’m terribly, terribly sorry.”

To Kingsbury’s mother he wrote: “I was supposed to look after you and him. I let you down. What I’ve done to you now it’s just too much.”

Just outside the courtroom doors a woman moaned.

I can’t take it no more. My heart hurts,” she cried, again and again.

A press release from the US Attorney’s Office is below.

District Man Sentenced to More than 15 Years in Prison In Killing of His Then-Girlfriend’s 20-Month-Old Son- Child Had Numerous Injuries, Marks and Bruises -

WASHINGTON - Steven Allen Cephas, 22, also known as Savion Allen Dawson, was sentenced today to 15 years and five months in prison for voluntary manslaughter in the death of his then-girlfriend’s 20-month-old son, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

Cephas, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty in September 2011 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable William M. Jackson. Upon completion of his prison term, Cephas will be placed on five years of supervised release.

According to evidence presented by Assistant U. S. Attorney Cynthia G. Wright, Cephas was at an apartment in the 5000 block of Jay Street NE on November 8, 2010, babysitting his girlfriend’s 20-month-old son, Dominic Kingsbury Jr., while she went to work. Prior to leaving for work, the mother reported that her son showed no signs of distress, bruising or injuries.

At approximately 12:30 a.m., Cephas called his girlfriend and stated the child had stopped breathing. She then called Dominic’s grandmother, who came immediately to the apartment. Evidence showed that Cephas had caused injuries to the child while he was alone with him.

When the grandmother arrived, she observed Dominic lying face up with marks and bruising on his face and stomach. She cried for help, and a neighbor called 911. The neighbor reported that the child was cold to the touch, with no pulse, unconscious, and unresponsive.

Members of the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services arrived and transported Dominic, who had cardiac arrest, to Children’s National Medical Center. At 3:17 a.m., the little boy was pronounced dead. An autopsy indicated that he suffered from acute multiple blunt force injuries to the body, along with hemorrhages, lacerations of the intestine and liver, and spinal cord contusions. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

The evidence indicates that Cephas was the only person caring for the child at the time of his injuries. When initially questioned by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Cephas provided a false name of “Savion Allen Dawson” and was released by the police. His true name later was discovered and he was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service on November 10, 2010.

At the time of Dominic’s death, Cephas was pending jail time for violating the conditions of his probation in another case, involving charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and carrying a pistol without a license. On July 29, 2010, the Honorable Judge Herbert B. Dixon, Jr. revoked the defendant’s probation and had ordered him to be turned over to the U.S. Marshals to serve a sentence. But first, Judge Dixon gave Cephas 15 minutes to turn over his property to family members. Instead of complying, Cephas fled. After Cephas’s arrest in the murder case, Judge Dixon revoked his probation and sentenced him to seven years of incarceration.

Cephas currently is serving a 7 ½-year prison sentence, ordered by the Honorable Herbert B. Dixon, Jr., for two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of carrying a pistol without a license. Judge Jackson ordered that the sentence he imposed today run consecutively to the time that Cephas is serving for the other crimes.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of MPD Detectives Carlos Hilliard and Gina Powell, Sgt. Robert Parker, Mobile Crime Officers Petheria McIver, John R. Holder, Jay Gregory, and Tony Nwami, and Technicians Eric S. Coker and Stan Rembish. He also commended Pete Amico of the U.S. Marshals Service.

U.S. Attorney Machen also praised the work of those who handled the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Kelly Blakeney, Delissa Rivers, Mark Silberstein and Alesha Matthews-Yette, and Victim Witness Advocate, Marcey Rinker. He also commended the efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia G. Wright, who investigated and prosecuted the case.

Note: A correction has been made to this story to correct the spelling of Denise George.

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