Riley sentenced to up to 18.5 years prison in daughter's death

Sep. 8—LIMA — Allen County Judge Terri Kohlrieser handed down a sentence Friday of at least 13 and a half years and up to 18 and a half years to Stayce Riley, 25, after she pleaded guilty in July to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment for her part in the death of Ma'Laya Dewitt, her 4-year-old daughter, over two years ago.

Kohlrieser said that the sentence was not mandatory, but that Riley still deserved the sentence for neglecting to seek treatment for Dewitt before her death, which her former boyfriend Romiere Hale pleaded guilty to in October 2021.

"I have no doubt that Miss Riley was broken and those are the tough cases for this court," she said in her decision. "But she also wasn't raised under a rock. And she clearly, at some point, had an idea of how to care for her child."

Prosecutor Kyle Thines, calling for the maximum sentence, said that Riley's inaction after observing days of injuries to her daughter caused by Hale's beatings proved her responsibility.

"Hale disciplined Miss Riley's kids with beatings, did not work and maintained a K2 addiction," he said. "An Apollo Career Center student reported hearing the beatings while working on a neighboring apartment and these actions were known to the defendant, but she continued to leave her kids in the care of this person. She took the victim to the doctor for ailments leading up to this incident, but even when they observed days of injuries, they did not again until she died."

Dewitt's father spoke in an emotional statement and said he would have cared for Ma'Laya if Riley had given her over to him.

"I'm not here to judge you," he said. "You gave me the happiest moment of my life and you gave me the worst moment of my life. But you're a mother. You were supposed to protect her and you knew that. I just want you to know how bad this hurts."

Riley's defense attorney, Stephen Chamberlain said that the trauma she experienced from childhood abuse and toxic relationships called for the court to have mercy on her.

"The real perpetrator, Mr. Hale, did get his punishment and he should be gone for life, but my client never laid a hand on the child that caused injury or death," he said. "I truly believe if Stayce Riley had one person who had taken an interest, her daughter would be here. I do not believe she needs a maximum sentence as she did not have the rational ability to get herself out of this toxic relationship with Mr. Hale."

Riley, through tears that lasted the majority of the hearing, was apologetic and pleaded for sympathy.

"I feel your pain every day and I just hope that you can forgive me," she said toward the father's family. "I'm not a bad person, but I have made some very bad decisions. If I could trade places with her, I would."

Kohlrieser, while she did not hand down a mandatory sentence, challenged both Riley and the family to learn from the ordeal and make sure Dewitt's death was not in vain, but was stern in her judgment.

"While you did not strike a blow, you assisted in killing Ma'Laya," she said to Riley. "The law does not allow us to torture criminals, but that's what Ma'Laya endured: a week of torture."

Hale was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for murder and child endangerment following an investigation by the Lima Police Department that found that Dewitt suffered severe abdominal injuries after finding the child unresponsive in their Elizabeth Street residence.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.