Man accused of beating child to death
By Josh O’Gorman
STAFF WRITER | February 24,2014
RUTLAND — A Poultney man is expected in court today to answer a charge he beat his 2-year-old stepdaughter to death.
Dennis Duby, 31, is scheduled to appear in Rutland criminal court to answer a charge of second-degree murder for the death of Dezirae Sheldon, who died Friday at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.
According to state police, Wednesday night, police received a call from Rutland Regional Medical Center of an injured child in the emergency room. Dezirae was later taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock, where she died from her injuries.
Dezirae’s body was taken to the New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy “revealed that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and manner of death was homicide,” police said.
Police said that, as a result of their investigation, they charged Duby, the girl’s stepfather, with murder.
Sunday, police confirmed that Dezirae’s mother is Sandra Eastman. In May of 2013, Eastman — who at the time was 30 years old — pleaded innocent in Rutland criminal court to a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to a child.
According to affidavits filed with the court in February of that year, Eastman brought her daughter to Rutland Regional Medical Center for injuries. An X-ray showed the girl had recently fractured a bone in one leg and had an older break in the other.
Affidavits state Eastman told police she had dropped her daughter while putting her in her crib. According to police, she said that, days before the February visit to the emergency room, she had grabbed her daughter’s leg to pull her back from the top of a staircase.
According to affidavits, doctors in Rutland — and a consulting doctor from Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington who specializes in pediatric abuse and neglect — told police the baby’s injuries didn’t match either Eastman’s timeline of events or the nature of the injuries.
Affidavits state the doctors, when looking at the recent fracture, said: “This fracture would require a significant amount of force. This is not a simple toddler fracture, which can occur from relatively minimal force.”
It could not be confirmed Sunday evening that the daughter Eastman brought to the emergency room in February of 2013 was Dezirae Sheldon.
An outpouring of sympathy and cries for justice were heard across the Internet in recent days. On Facebook, a page titled “In Loving Memory of Dezirae Sheldon” has 212 friends, who are posting photos and sharing memories of the girl. Another Facebook page, “Justice for Dezirae,” had more than 5,300 members as of Sunday evening.
An online petition demanding the state’s Department for Children and Families take responsibility for Dezirae’s death has gathered 1,500 signatures. The petition can be found at goo.gl/jPaCjb. A protest is planned for outside the Asa Bloomer building, which houses the local office of the DCF, in Downtown Rutland today at noon.