Washington Man Sentenced for Fatally Abusing His 15-Month-Old Daughter

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Matthew Gantt read from Scripture before he was sentenced Friday in Pierce County Superior Court.

Gantt spoke about faith and redemption, and his struggles with mental health.

It's interesting, Judge James Orlando told him, that when people quote Scripture in court, they sometimes disregard relevant parts.

"Thou shalt not kill," the judge said. "Mr. Gantt, you killed your child."

Orlando sentenced him to 21 years, two months in prison for the death of 15-month-old Nala Gantt.

That was the high-end sentence that the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend. Gantt, 45, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, witness tampering and second-degree assault last year.

Nala died in October 2018, days after she was taken to Madigan Army Medical Center with a significant skull fracture and other serious injuries.

Deputy prosecutor Heather de Maine told the court the mother called 911 and that Gantt did CPR. He said Nala had fallen out of her crib, but doctors determined that couldn't be the case, and a medical examiner found there'd been "extreme force used to create the fracture," charging papers said.

The child's mother later wrote investigators that Gantt had hit the child's head on the arm of a couch, de Maine said.

"This was a horrific and brutal killing of a 15-month-old child," the prosecutor said. "... There were obvious signs that Nala had been a victim of abuse."

Gantt tried to stop the mother from speaking to police. She, too, was a victim of domestic violence, de Maine said. Two months before Nala died, Gantt broke the mother's arm with a baseball bat, and she did not get proper medical treatment. She was pregnant at the time with their second child. Ultimately she needed surgery to fix her arm, the prosecutor said.

The mother spoke to the court about losing her daughter, being a survivor of domestic violence, the trauma she experienced and recovering her identity. She described Gantt as manipulative and coercive.

He used a belt to make welts on her legs while she was pregnant with Nala, she told the judge, then refused to let her go to prenatal appointments and threatened that there better not be anything wrong with the child.

She also spoke about the level of control he exerted in the home, even over simple things.

Defense attorney Bryan Hershman spoke to the court about Gantt's mental health records. He said his client was in counseling at the time, suffered from hallucinations and hadn't been sufficiently treated. Gantt has a ninth grade education, struggled to maintain employment and has family ready to support him emotionally and financially, the attorney said.

When it was Gantt's turn to speak, he told the court: "The truth is I loved my family very much, and I tried to protect them."

He talked about his struggles with mental health and said he would not have intentionally hurt his wife or his child.

"The death of my daughter should have been prevented," Gantt said.

Judge Orlando told Gantt his actions toward his family had been "horrific."

He said he appreciated that Gantt had taken responsibility by pleading guilty and then imposed the sentence. He also ordered that Gantt not have contact with his surviving child while he's incarcerated, at least for the time being.

"I believe that you're a threat not only to your wife, but a threat to your child," the judge said.

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