Man Sentenced for Cruelty to Children After Murder Charge Dropped

A defendant who was previously charged with murder in connection with his three-month-old daughter’s death was sentenced to three years in prison for cruelty to children on Aug. 13.

“I’m very upset with myself because I don’t get to see her grow into the beautiful lady I know she would’ve been,” defendant Cornell Holton wrote in a letter to DC Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz, referring to his daughter, Skylar Newman, who died after falling out of his arm and down the steps of his Southeast, DC, home on March 16, 2019.

According to the proffer of facts, Holton, 27, told a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) detective that, after the child fell, he put her on a boppy pillow and put a bottle in her mouth so she could drink, rather than immediately calling 911. Shortly after setting her up with the bottle, he checked on her and found she was having trouble breathing. At that point, he immediately called 911.

However, during the hearing, the defense said that, while Holton acknowledges that he should have called 911 immediately, earlier intervention would not have prevented Newman’s death. 

“Mr. Holton did not kill his baby,” defense attorney Molly Bunke said. “This baby died due to a terrible accident”

In July 2019, Holton was indicted on charges of felony murder and first-degree cruelty to children. Last May, he made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to second-degree cruelty to children. As part of the plea deal, parties agreed that a three-year prison sentence with parenting courses and drug treatment to be completed during supervised release would be appropriate in this case. 

Holton, who has been held at DC Jail since May 2019, will receive credit for time served.

Burke spoke of her client’s tumultuous time in jail, saying the nature of his charges caused him to be targeted by other residents. However, she said he has been paired with a peer support specialist who has helped him.

“[Holton has] been around my family for plenty of years,” Newman’s grandmother on her mother’s side said in a victim impact statement. “I know he’s not really a bad person and I know that he loves his children.”

Judge Kravitz asked Newman’s grandmother if she had an opinion on the appropriateness of the three-year sentence. She said she did not.

In her impact statement, she spoke of the heartbreak Newman’s death caused, and the hardship that came with its aftermath.

“I want this to be all over,” she said. “It’s been two years for us and our family.”