After the hearing and outside the courtroom, Maplewood Police Chief Brian Bierdeman said no resolution is fair for Jamari. “I don’t think there will ever be full justice for this girl,” he said.
Ramsey County Judge Leonardo Castro had direct words for Terrance Leslie on Thursday before sentencing him to 40 years in prison for the October murder of Jamari Hne, a 17-month-old girl who was repeatedly assaulted and burned by hot water.
Castro told Leslie that he committed “evil, devilish deeds” and the “most cowardly act imaginable to mankind: brutally taking the life of a precious and innocent child.”
Terrance Valdez Leslie (Courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)
The Maplewood toddler, who was the daughter of Leslie’s then-girlfriend, suffered burns to her face, bleeding in the brain, arm fractures and injuries consistent with sexual assault. She died of cardiac arrest.
“May you seek forgiveness from higher powers, because I don’t believe you will find that today,” Castro told him. “May God have mercy on your soul.”
Castro then handed down the 40-year term, which was the maximum Leslie could be given on a second-degree unintentional murder conviction. Last month, the 26-year-old pleaded guilty to the charge and agreed to the aggravated sentence.
His attorney, Leif Carlson, told Castro that “he took responsibility … and he’s prepared to start his sentence, which will keep him in prison for a good portion of the rest of his life.”
After the hearing and outside the courtroom, Maplewood Police Chief Brian Bierdeman said no resolution is fair for Jamari.
“I don’t think there will ever be full justice for this girl,” he said.
Maplewood police officers and paramedics were called to an apartment building in the 1400 block of County Road B East just before 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 after a report of a 1-year-old girl with serious burns. In a second-floor apartment, responders found Jamari with fresh burns to her right cheek, both sides of her neck, on her right forearm and her shoulder. She was lethargic and unresponsive.
When medics removed her clothes, they found dark bruises “all over” her back and abdomen. Medics rushed her to the hospital, where she went into cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead at 9:53 p.m.
Undated courtesy photo of 17-month old Jamari Hne (Courtesy of GoFundMe)
An emergency room physician concluded that many of the bruises over the girl’s body were old, indicating ongoing physical abuse. She also had fresh bruises to her face. The doctor noted blood behind her eardrum, indicating a brain injury.
Jamari’s mother, Hannah Nge, told police Leslie watched the girl while she was at work.
Leslie told investigators Jamari fell into a bath of hot water while he was tending to his dog. He said as he was drying the toddler, her skin began to peel off. He said he then called her mother, who came home from work.
But the burn patterns on Jamari did not appear to match Leslie’s story, according to police, and measurements of the temperature of the hot water from the bathtub was not hot enough to cause the degree of burns the girl suffered.
Jamari’s mother said the girl was fine when she left her in Leslie’s care. She said he called her and said Jamari fell in a tub of hot water and was burned.
She said she had been dating Leslie for two to three months and they’d been living together for several weeks.
Videos on phone
Police say Leslie took cell-phone videos of some of the assaults on the day of her death.
In a nearly four-minute video, Jamari is seen with bruised and swollen cheeks while sitting silent in a soiled car seat. At one point, Leslie aggressively grabs the top of her head and “snaps” it to show the left side of her face. Jamari made no noise. Later, he repeatedly swore at Jamari as she cried, which was followed by the sound of a “loud thud,” the complaint states.
A 48-second video nearly three hours later shows Jamari with large welts on the left side of her face. She’s sitting on the floor, in only a diaper, swaying back and forth, her eyes slowly closing. Her eyelids close, and her eyes roll back.
“Out of view, Leslie loudly slaps (Jamari) on the right side of her cheek, rousing her awake,” the complaint states. She opens her eyes.
Leslie’s criminal history dates back to when he was a juvenile. He was found guilty of threats of violence in 2009, and possession of a firearm by an ineligible person three years later.
At the time of Jamari’s murder, Leslie was on supervised probation after being convicted of shooting a man during a robbery in North Minneapolis in January 2016. Attempted murder charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement and he was sentenced to 71/2 years in prison in February 2017. He was released from prison four years later and put on supervised probation until August 2023.
‘What did you do?’
Prosecutor Hao Nguyen told Castro at the sentencing that Jamari’s mother would give a victim impact statement to the court. Others sat in the courtroom gallery, including the girl’s father, Daniel Jefferson, 17.
“All I can think about is that day, coming from work and seeing my kid just laid out,” Jamari’s 18-year-old mother told the court. “And questioning, ‘What did you do? What did you do?’ It just can’t escape my mind.”
When given the chance to speak, Leslie turned to Jamari’s family and said, “I know words can’t express how you feel. I’m sorry I put you through these things you’re going through right now.”
Judge Castro offered his condolences to Jamari’s family. He asked them to “continue to honor her life, share your memories of her. She will live in your hearts.”
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