Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 25, 2014

Use of Dominick's Law sad, necessary

It’s difficult to celebrate the first use of Dominick’s Law, which stiffened penalties for child abuse in Michigan, because it means another child suffered horrible abuse while a parent failed to protect him.

But the inaugural use of the law, as tragic as it is, does deserve noting. After all, it is because of the tireless efforts of Dominick Calhoun’s family that the mother of a 3-year-old boy and her boyfriend both will spend several years behind bars for their actions or, in the case of the mother, her inaction.

May this serve a reminder to all parents that they have a moral obligation as well as a legal duty to protect their children from harm.

Dominick Calhoun, 4, of Argentine Township died as a result of his abuse at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend. Afterward, his paternal grandfather, Rick Calhoun, and other relatives channeled their grief into changing state law to strengthen penalties for child abuse.

Thanks to their tireless efforts, Aleesha Ann Wyatt, 24, and Robert L. Martin, 35, both of Flint have become the first people in the state to be charged, convicted and sentenced under the law.

On March 3, Wyatt was sentenced for five years, 10 months to 21 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree child abuse in the case of her 3-year-old son. Martin was sentenced in January to 14-21 years after pleading no contest to first-degree child abuse and assault with intent to murder.

Wyatt’s son was taken to the hospital on Nov. 1, 2012, with bruises covering his entire body, court records show. In addition to cracked ribs, the boy underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.

This tragedy didn’t have to happen. Indeed, records show that in June 2012, Child Protective Services told Wyatt not to let Martin care for her children.

Rick Calhoun said he hopes the tougher sentences will help persuade mothers to take more care about who they allow around their children. We couldn’t agree more.

In the meantime, for children who are victimized and abused, at least now stiffer penalties now exist to punish those who harmed them or who let the abuse happen.

The Flint Journal

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