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Couple pleads guilty in 2007 child abuse death

Mother facing 25 years to life in prison

VICTORVILLE • A Victorville couple accused of abusing their 3-year-old daughter to death accepted the prosecution's offer and pleaded guilty almost six years after their arrest.

In February 2007, Kassie Joan Claw, 27, and Terrence Lee Smith, 28, took their daughter, Monique, to Victor Valley Community Hospital after she became non-responsive.

Hospital officials called law enforcement when they discovered bruising, wounds and scars on Monique’s body, including extensive burns on her hands, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials.

Claw initially denied any wrong-doing and claimed Monique had fallen off of playground equipment and that the child burned her hands while washing them, sheriff’s officials said.

But in a later interview, Claw admitted to having struck the child. She also admitted to becoming upset with the child when she urinated on the bathroom floor, flinging her toward the door, where Monique hit her head on the door jamb, officials said.

Monique went through multiple surgeries to relieve the pressure on her skull from brain swelling, but never regained consciousness. She died from complications of abusive head trauma three months later.

According to sheriff’s officials, Monique never would have been able to play, eat or walk again even if she had lived.

The couple were charged with the murder, torture and child abuse of Monique. They were also charged with the abuse of their 2-year-old daughter who was found with abrasions and scars covering most of her body.

Claw pleaded guilty Friday to one felony count of child abuse causing death, facing 25 years to life in prison, Deputy District Attorney Bryan Stodghill said.

Smith pleaded guilty to two felony counts of willful cruelty to a child causing great bodily injury, facing 13 years and four months in prison, Stodghill said.

They’ve already served nearly six years in jail waiting for the case to get resolved. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced March 15 at the Victorville court.

Tomoya Shimura may be reached at (760) 955-5368 or TShimura@VVDailyPress.com. Follow Tomoya on Facebook at facebook.com/ShimuraTomoya.

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