Hudson County Superior Court Judge John Young labeled 27-year-old Reinaldo Rodriguez a “vile coward” when he sentenced him for murdering his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter, Karen Lewin.
Lewin, the daughter of 32-year-old Jennifer Cruz, was in Rodriguez’s care at Cruz’s home in Jersey City, New Jersey, on May 27, 2014, when the child resisted Rodriguez’s attempts to brush her hair. In retaliation, Rodriguez punched Lewin in the stomach.
"And when you did that, did you know that would cause serious bodily injury due to her age and condition?" Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Michael D'Andrea asked Rodriguez at the hearing in March 2015.
Rodriguez admitted he did, according to New Jersey Advance Media.
That day, someone called the police about Lewin, who was unconscious, and she died an hour later at a nearby hospital. Cruz later pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of her two surviving children and Rodriguez pleaded guilty to murder on Jan. 22, 2015.
Rodriguez was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the maximum penalty for the charges, New Jersey Advance Media reported in separate story. If Rodriguez had gone to trial, he could have faced life in prison.
"She had no chance of survival. For what? You didn't like her reaction when you wanted to comb her hair? What were you thinking? ... You pulverized that child,” Young said.
"Wild animals care more about their young than you did for Karen that day."
Rodriguez's aunt, Wanda Torres, said she doesn’t believe it was intentional. “My nephew is not a bad person," Torres said. "He does have a great heart ... I love my nephew with all my heart and I will continue to pray for him and pray for Karen. On behalf of myself, my family and Reinaldo, I would like to say we are deeply sorry.”
Sandra Aviles, Cruz's godmother, has taken in Cruz's children, both of whom are under the age of two. "I'm not here to judge him, and it breaks my heart to think his life will end in such a horrible manner,” she told the court. “I heard what his family said and I appreciate it, but justice has to be served.”