|Jennifer and Octavio Diaz plead their case in front of Judge Fred Stine. FTM file.|
After 434 days since the first reporting of child abuse, Desiree Rankin was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Fred Stine to three months in county jail for abusing two children she babysat for in 2014. The sentencing hearing took place on Tuesday morning at the Campbell County Courthouse in Newport.
Rankin agreed to an Alford plea, meaning she doesn't admit guilt, but agrees there is evidence that may be damaging.
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As a part of the sentence, Rankin must also complete anger management and other treatment as recommended by the court. Rankin also must not be a babysitter or caretaker of any children other than her own.
The sentence came down minutes after hearing from the victims’ parents, who addressed the court before Judge Stine handed down the sentence.
Jennifer Diaz, mother of Sophie Diaz, one of the victims, said she has been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since finding out that Sophie had been abused. Diaz also said Rankin has left emotional scars on her and her family, calling Rankin a ‘monster.’
“We’ve been living in a prison of emotion while she roams free,” Jennifer Diaz said.
Sophie’s father, Octavio Diaz, also spoke at the hearing, saying the he “has nothing. All I have are my wife and my children.”
Octavio Diaz said that Sophie gets scared by any raise of the hand, even when she is being tickled.
“I have to be careful when I pick her up, she gets scared,” Octavio Diaz said.
Rankin, a high school classmate of Galvez, began babysitting Sophie Diaz on Sept. 4, 2014. After one month of care by Rankin, on Oct. 15, 2014, Jennifer Diaz began noticing bruising on Sophie, then five-months-old. When asked about it, Rankin made an excuse as to how Sophie was bruised.
Two weeks later, Jennifer began noticing bruising on Sophie’s cheek and mouth, followed by more marks on the face six days later.
On Nov. 26, 2014, a day before Thanksgiving, Rankin told Jennifer Diaz that Sophie has suffered a seizure, which explained the bruises on her body. Diaz rushed Sophie to the hospital for the seizure, then was sent to Mayerson Clinic, where doctors specifically diagnosed child abuse.
Asha Galvez, mother of Julian Saunders, another victim in the case, addressed the court, saying she is heartbroken that someone that she and Jennifer Diaz have known since high school committed this crime.
“It was heartbreaking to see him cry so hard and not be able to comfort him,” Saunders said. “It literally breaks my heart to think about what he went through.”
Galvez discovered in July 2014 that Julian, then three-months-old, was hit in the face. When confronting Rankin about it, Rankin stated that Julian had been attacked by a dog. Other injuries to Julian included a busted lip and injuries to the inside of the lip and mouth. The Mayerson Clinic also found that Julian was developing slower, which it says is very common among child abuse victims.
Saunders hopes that shedding light on this case will raise awareness for child abuse.
“I would not want any family or child to endure what we endured,” Galvez said.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Stine addressed the courtroom and Rankin by saying that the “children are lucky.”
“They (children) will not remember what had happened to them. Parents and family, however, never recover,” Stine said.
Stine said he could not fathom what the children and families are going through, or how he would react if he was put in that situation.
“You’re fortunate you have the plea deal that you do,” Stine said to Rankin after the sentencing.
Outside the courtroom, the Diaz and Saunders families believe justice was served.
“I think we are pretty happy with the outcome,” Jennifer Diaz said. “I’m even more happy that he sent her directly to jail.”
Galvez says she was worried that justice wouldn’t be served and that Rankin wouldn’t be immediately sent to jail.
“I think Judge Stine heard our message today that she needs to be put away,” she said. “Being a parent, you don’t think these things happen. But you don’t think about it being on TV. It’s hard to put yourself in that position."
Now that Rankin has been sentenced, the two mothers said they will be an advocate for standing up to child abuse.
“We’re going to try to push something over for Sophie’s Law,” Diaz said. “We want to create a child abuse registry to child abusers can be looked up on a registry and see who will be watching your child.”
As for how the children are doing now, both parents say both children are recovering and doing fine now.
“Sophie’s good,” Diaz said. “She’s thriving.”
Both children will be turning two years old this year.