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Mother sentenced in 3-year-old's death

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A West Baltimore woman who reported her 3-year-old daughter missing from a local mall when the girl really had been beaten to death drew 30 years in prison yesterday for her part in the crime.

Darntrell Griffin's voice broke as she told Baltimore Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy Jr. she regretted allowing her live-in boyfriend to repeatedly abuse her daughter, Shante Denise Harris.

"I do feel great remorse for what's happened," she said. "How can I take it back?"

In a parallel to the Susan Smith trial under way in Union, S.C., Griffin and her boyfriend, Eric Dorsey, told Baltimore County police that Shante disappeared while the family was shopping at a Montgomery Ward store in Security Square Mall on July 27, 1994.

Mall security asked the more than 100 stores to reopen so a search could proceed, and authorities sought help from the public.

Two days later, police confronted Dorsey and Griffin after reviewing videotapes from security cameras that showed Shante was never with the couple when they were shopping. Dorsey then led police to a spot in Leakin Park near Franklintown Road, where he had discarded the child's naked, battered body behind a tree.

Dorsey, whom prosecutors say actually killed the girl, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for second-degree murder and related charges in May.

Griffin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and child abuse, though her attorney, Kenneth Williams, described her mostly as a conspirator with Dorsey to cover up his abuse. Mr. Williams said Griffin suffered from depression and had been molested as a child.

But Assistant State's Attorney Larry Doan said yesterday that the abuse of Shante, which included blows to the abdomen with belts and extension cords, had occurred for weeks, with her mother doing very little to intervene.

Mr. Doan, a veteran prosecutor, said the case was one of the most difficult of his career.

"This defendant had discarded her daughter long before Eric Dorsey discarded her in the park," Mr. Doan said.

Shante's father, Joseph Harris, said yesterday that justice had been served in the case. He hoped one day to understand how Griffin, his former girlfriend, allowed their daughter to die.

"I'm still hurting," Mr. Harris said. "This is something that I'll never shake."

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