Aaron Benjamin Jr.'s Mother Sentenced To 2 Years Short of Maximum Penalty By Judge

Aaron Benjamin Jr.’s Mother Sentenced To 2 Years Short of Maximum Penalty By Judge

KINGSHILL — Delicia Daniel, the mother of 4-year-old Aaron Benjamin Jr., was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison for her role in her son’s death.

“Mothers instinctively protect their children,” said Virgin Islands Superior Court Presiding Judge Harold Willocks. “You failed.”

Aaron, known as “AJ,” died on October 11, 2019, after suffering horrific physical injuries, as first reported in the V.I. Daily News.

While Daniel may not have struck the fatal blows herself, “you sat back and you looked at this abuse going on,” Willocks said.

Daniel — who was 29 at the time, and her then-22-year-old boyfriend, Kyle Christopher, were both arrested and charged with first-degree murder, child abuse, and related crimes.

Christopher, who is accused of physically abusing Aaron and causing his death, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His trial is set to begin on April 11.

Daniel pleaded guilty to child abuse in October, and she took the opportunity to speak publicly during Wednesday’s hearing.

Shackled and dressed in a red jail uniform, Daniel made an emotional apology, turning first to her son’s father, Aaron Benjamin Sr., who sat alone in the gallery.

“I’m really, really sorry for putting you and my daughter through this tragedy,” Daniel said. “I was in a weak state of mind and I should have gotten the guts to help my son.”

Benjamin sat silently and shook his head after Daniel spoke. At one point he dropped his head and cried. Benjamin chose not to make a statement during Wednesday’s hearing, and declined to comment outside of the courtroom.

In the months leading up to his son’s death, Benjamin told police that he noticed bruises and repeatedly tried to alert authorities that his children were being abused in Daniel’s home. He also told police Daniel hadn’t let him see his children since June 2019.

During a press conference in January 2020, Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez would only say Aaron Benjamin’s family “received services” from the department for several years, but provided no further details, citing HIPAA regulations and the ongoing criminal investigation.

At sentencing Wednesday, Daniel also apologized to family members, the court, and “the people of St. Croix for what has happened to my baby boy,” she said. “Everybody might think that I’m a monster, that I’m a murderer, but that’s not true. The only thing I’m guilty of is making wrong decisions and putting myself in situations I shouldn’t. The only thing I’m guilty of is letting someone else hurt my son and not stopping it.”

Defense attorney Nicole-Lynn King said Daniel’s childhood was marked by sexual abuse and violence, and she has been a victim of domestic violence as an adult.

“The community is upset because Delicia Daniel failed to call police, she failed to go to the hospital, she failed to seek medical attention for Aaron,” King said.

While the community is rightfully outraged, “I don’t see how someone who has not defended herself her entire life, a victim, can be expected to protect anyone else,” King said.

Daniel’s father sexually abused her when she was 12 years old, and she was once “stabbed in the hand with a knife,” King said. “That was her normal.”

King asked for an eight-year prison sentence, and Daniel’s mother asked Willocks for leniency “because she needs a chance to live life and show that she can do better.”

Assistant V.I. Attorney General Eric Chancellor asked for Daniel to be sentenced to the maximum of 20 years.

“A child doesn’t belong just to the parents, a child belongs to the community,” Chancellor said. A child’s death, “hurts all of us, not just the parents. It takes away from our community and we’re offended by it. It’s an affront.”

Chancellor said it’s clear from the various ages of the bruises and scars on Aaron’s body “this wasn’t a one time thing.”

Benjamin died one day after Christopher admitted he’d slapped the child in the face for “stealing” juice from his sister and claimed that the boy fell and hit his head on a chair on Oct. 10, according to police.

Both Christopher and Daniel told police that the child began vomiting and lost consciousness. An autopsy showed that Benjamin died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The boy was dead on arrival at the hospital, and the physician on duty reported that the boy’s body was emaciated and had “old and new abrasions to his face, chest, back, buttocks, and a bite mark on his right shoulder,” according to police.

The child’s sister told police that “Daddy Kyle beats her and her brother with a black stick.”

“This was something that continued over a period of time,” Chancellor said. Daniel “couldn’t not know,” and “it was also happening to his sister because she had the same bruises.”

Chancellor said Benjamin’s diaper contained rotted feces, “that’s the level of neglect that we have here.”

Daniel “was complicit, because she stood by, watched, and did nothing,” Chancellor said.

“I don’t mean to be harsh on you because I know you’re suffering,” but “you failed to be a mother,” Willocks said. “You’re not a monster at all. You’re not a monster. For whatever reason, you stopped being a mother.”

He recounted the nature of the crime and said he “may have looked at it differently” if the abuse hadn’t been ongoing for such a long time, but “you sat back and you looked at this abuse going on.”

Willocks said he listened closely to Daniel’s statement and “you keep saying ‘the only thing you’re guilty of.’ ”

He made it clear that Daniel is responsible for failing to prevent her son’s death.

“Yes ma’am, you’re guilty. You’re guilty of not protecting your children,” Willocks said.

By SUZANNE CARLSON/Virgin Islands Daily News