JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man who pleaded guilty in the 2013 murder of his girlfriend's 22-month-old daughter was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in state prison, followed by 10 years of probation.
Todd Howell claimed he dropped Kylieann Burress in November 2013 at the Villages of Baymeadows apartments and then shook her in an attempt to wake her up.
The 22-month-old stopped breathing and was rushed unresponsive to Wolfson Children's Hospital, where she died about 12 hours later from shaken baby syndrome.
“Nobody in the world should ever have to see that,” the girl's paternal grandfather, John Burress, said. “No child should ever have to be put through that, because it is just inhumane. It's not right.”
Police said the incident happened after Howell took the girl's mother to work. The two had been together for two months.
Judge Waddell Wallace said what happened was inexcusable and unjustifiable when he sentenced Howell to 25 years in state prison. Howell had pleaded guilty a month ago to killing the little girl.
Howell's attorney and the State Attorney's Office agreed to the sentence, along with Kylieann's family, although her grandparents said they are far from satisfied and had hoped for more prison time.
“The punishment never fits the crime,” the toddler's paternal grandmother, Carolyn Burress, said. “He took her life.”
Kylieann's father, her grandparents and her aunt were among those who gave impact statements Thursday.
“We've got so many pictures that tell a story, a story that we can never get back and one that we could never move forward with,” Carolyn Burress, said.
John Burress said any time they spent with the bashful, sweet toddler was special.
“She was just that type of captivating person that would laugh and smile, even if she was sleeping,” John Burress said. “She was the perfect child to us.”
Howell spoke briefly, but did not directly apologize to Kylieann's family.
“It is unfortunate what has come about in the situation,” Howell said. “I know that I loved her. I miss her every day, and I don't have too much more to say.”
He was taken into custody after the hearing. He had been out on home detention. His family was in the courtroom, but left before making any comments.
Kylieann’s grandparents said the laws need to change so that the punishment is harsher for those who kill children. They also said parents need to be careful with who they let watch their children. They said they hope speaking out will save another child’s life.
The Department of Children and Families told News4Jax that two-thirds of all child abuse and neglect cases in the nation come at the hands of a single mother's boyfriend. The majority of those cases involve children under the age of 3, which can make it difficult, but not impossible to stop problems before it's too late.