A 24-year-old Leesburg man will spend 13 years behind bars for causing the death of his infant daughter in October 2014.
After hearing from three witnesses in Loudoun County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Judge Jeanette Irby upheld the jury’s sentencing recommendation for Diamante Travon Ellis. He was sentenced to eight years on a felony homicide conviction and five years on child abuse and neglect conviction. He must also undergo post-release supervision, as well as counseling and treatment as recommended.
After a seven-day trial in March, Ellis was convicted on charges of second-degree murder, child abuse and neglect, and felony murder. Prosecutors later dismissed the second-degree murder charge, which was duplicative of the felony murder conviction.
The investigation began the night of Oct. 2, 2014, when Ellis and his grandfather brought the unconscious infant to the emergency room at the Inova Loudoun Medical Campus in Leesburg. The child then was flown to Children’s National Medical Hospital in Washington. After three days on life support, Devyn died Oct. 5.
When questioned by Leesburg Police detectives, Ellis gave differing stories about what caused her injuries, finally saying the he dropped her onto a bathroom floor. A year after her death, Ellis was charged in the case. He has been jailed since October 2015.
In court Wednesday, defense attorneys urged the judge to lighten the sentence, and presented three witnesses to support their description of Ellis as a caring father and brother.
On the stand, Ellis’ 17-year-old sister, Kiana Ellis, described her older brother as goofy, loving and the one who would break up family arguments. “He was just always there, ya know, in the way he needed to be. … That was him,” she said.
His 23-year-old sister, Preasha Ellis, said her older brother—and the entire family—loved and cared for baby Devyn. “That child meant the world to us. People say they know what happened, but they don’t know. They weren’t there. That’s not fair to us,” she said. “We did everything for that child, even for the mom.”
A third witness, Raphael Madina, said he’d knew Diamante Travon Ellis since he was a kid and had worked with him for two and a half years. “I’ve absolutely never had a problem with him,” he said, adding that Ellis was often around his daughters and only treated them with respect.
Before Judge Irby handed down the sentence, she asked Ellis if he had anything to say. “I’ve always been a good father to my kids. … I’m always loving and have good intentions,” he said. He later added, “I will do my best to rehabilitate myself and try to be a good inmate.”
Judge Irby told Ellis that, based on testimony from his family members and others who know him well, he is a respectful young man and even a caring father. “Devyn meant the world to you and to your family,” she said.
But she said she couldn’t get past the evidence photos of his home. One was of the bathroom, where he had said he dropped his daughter accidentally. Irby noted that the bathroom didn’t look disheveled, but even tidy. The other was of a bedroom where Ellis said he and his daughter spent most their time. There were prescription medicine bottles and a bottle of alcohol on the floor, as well as electrical cords and a cast-iron skillet with food.
“There was no safe place for Devyn in that room,” she said. “I don’t know what object Devyn was beat with—because that is what happened—but the bathroom doesn’t look like the place where that would have happened.”
Sentencing guidelines for Ellis charges range from 13 years six months to 20 years. The maximum sentence on the homicide charge alone would be 40 years in prison.
Irby said, “When you look at the guidelines, they show you how serious these crimes are.”