Fort Lauderdale, FL – Deanna DeJesus, 38, has been convicted of child neglect for failing to protect her children from their father during a hostage standoff with police.

The guilty verdict carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.  An aggravated manslaughter charge, which jurors could not unanimously agree upon, carries a maximum sentence of 45 years.  The prosecution may seek a retrial to attempt conviction on the more serious charge, while the defense may appeal the current conviction.

A sentencing date will be set on November 5th.

In February, Deanna’s husband, 41-year-old William DeJesus, drove Deanna and their two sons into a Deerfield RV park.  He stormed a randomly chosen RV, shot the 76-year-old owner to death, and held his own family and the dead man’s girlfriend as hostages.  He then called 911 and told the dispatcher he had “hijacked a woman.”

What ensued was a 7-hour standoff with a SWAT team in which DeJesus stabbed every member of his family, including himself.  DeJesus and his 9-year-old son, who was autistic, died of their wounds.  The 7-year-old boy and Deanna DeJesus were severely wounded but survived.  The RV owner’s girlfriend was physically unharmed.  Both DeJesus and the 9-year-old were found to have cocaine in their bloodstreams.  Deanna admitted to authorities that she knew her husband sometimes gave their children drugs.

Prosecutors in the case asserted that Deanna’s failure to act against her husband in defense of her children caused both the death of her elder son as well as the injuries to her younger.  Court documents indicate that the younger boy fought back against his father because his mother was doing nothing to protect his brother and him.

The defense maintained that Deanna was too badly injured from her own stab wounds to come to the aid of her children.  “This is a massacre at the hands of a father,” defense attorney Terrence Moons told the court. “You can’t go in and second-guess, ‘Well, if you would’ve done this, then things would’ve ended differently.'”  Deanna DeJesus’s counsel was barred from using a battered spouse defense since it does not apply in cases where the defendant knowingly fails to protect a child.

The history of this family is a sordid one.  The children were placed in foster care back in 2008 based upon multiple reports that William and Deanna had been sexually abusing their children.  A report indicates that William was the driving force behind the molestation.  “[William] had made [Deanna] believe that this was the way to show the children their love.”

At first, the boys’ stint with their foster parents was rough, with the boys hitting strangers for no apparent reason, but their behavior improved dramatically over time.  Within a month, the foster parents and the boys’ foster siblings grew very attached and expressed a deep desire to adopt them.  A foster-care worker reported the two boys lived in a “welcoming” room with “age-appropriate furniture and toys” and that “the boys appear to be thriving.”

In May 2009, the DCF decided to reunite the children with their biological parents despite the fact that it didn’t seem as though anyone but the DCF, Deanna, and William thought it was a very good idea.  The decision outraged the foster parents, but there was little they could do.

“Foster parent expressed her very strong concern for the emotional and physical well-being of children if returned to parents’ custody,” a Jan. 22, 2009, notation said. “Foster parent said that [the younger brother] is very much afraid of the ‘bad man’ under his bed and has to be consistently reassured that there is no one in his closet or under his bed.”  The DeJesus case file makes clear that “the bad man” was the boys’ father, whom the younger boy sometimes called the “monster.”

We now see how it all worked out, but this case is rife with second-guesses and Monday morning quarterbacks.

Personally, I feel like maybe Deanna DeJesus didn’t defend her children because she may have felt at the time of the murders that they were all better off dead.
WSVN-TV –

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