Even as a Baltimore judge read him graphic details from the autopsy report, a Baltimore man who pleaded guilty to killing his girlfriend's toddler insisted he had just been "rough-housing" with the girl.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Wanda K. Heard rejected that argument yesterday and sentenced Donald Washington to 20 years in prison - the maximum term possible under the plea agreement he made in October 2005.
Washington's sentencing hearing was repeatedly delayed as he underwent psychological and medical evaluations at the request of his defense attorney.
Washington was convicted of the Sept. 23, 2004, death of Andrea Butler-Carroll, the 2-year-old daughter of the woman who lived with him in the 1900 block of W. Franklin St. in West Baltimore.
"I am disgusted with myself," Washington said through tears at his sentencing hearing. His mother had also testified that he "feels terrible" about what happened and is a "loving young man" who "cherished all children" and has a daughter of his own.
But when Heard asked Washington why he beat Andrea to death, his demeanor changed. He told the judge that she was entitled to her opinion. Then he insisted the girl had died only because he had "played too hard" with her.
Heard, noting the autopsy report, said she knew better. She said the toddler had a broken right rib and was bleeding in five sections of her brain - injuries the medical examiner determined came from blunt-force trauma.
Charging documents in the case said that Washington told detectives he had hit the girl with his fist several times "and demonstrated how he struck the victim in various areas of her body."
"You beat her," Heard said. "And I'd just like to know why."
Washington did not directly answer her question.
Washington's lawyer, Avie Stone, stepped in for his client, offering the reason that perhaps the girl's early injuries - her parents had both been investigated for child abuse - made her more fragile than Washington realized when he was playing with her.
Heard acknowledged that the autopsy report showed pre-existing injuries to the toddler but said the autopsy and her experience told her that the girl's death was no one's fault but Washington's.