“I was too strong with my son. I shook him,” a 34-year-old man admitted Friday as he was sentenced in the 2003 death of his 2-month-old son.
“I would never have done this if I knew it would result in his death,” Gilbert G. Dancel Jr. said prior to his sentencing by 3rd Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra. “I feel horrible inside. My heart misses my son.”
Ibarra sentenced Dancel to one year in jail and five years probation for the death of Kaikela Medieros-Dancel on March 24, 2003. He must also pay $324.65 in fines and fees, in addition to restitution to be determined, and write an apology letter to the child’s mother, Gerilyn Medeiros.
Throughout Friday’s hearing, Gerilyn Medeiros clutched a framed photo of the bright-eyed youngster with the words “Our Little Tukie” printed atop. She also made a statement during the hearing, noting for 10 years her family has hurt not knowing decisively what happened to Kaikela.
“Now I know he hurt my son. He did it — the so-called ‘daddy,’” she said. “He shall serve and deserve time behind bars to think about what he has done.”
Dancel pleaded guilty Jan. 15 to second-degree assault in connection with his son’s death. Deputy Public Defender Peter Bresciani said Friday in court his client entered the plea to recklessly, not intentionally, causing injury resulting in death.
The assault charge is a reduced offense from manslaughter, which a Big Island grand jury originally indicted him on in 2012. Prosecutors amended their complaint to second-degree assault after motions by Dancel’s public defender to dismiss the case for the length of time between the incident and indictment and destruction of evidence.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kauanoe Jackson, who was not with the prosecutor’s office in 2003, said Friday the office has no excuse for the delay. She said prosecutors agreed to the plea deal because of a “high probability” the case could be dismissed.
“Some justice is better than no justice,” she said.
However, the delay does not reduce the seriousness of the case, she added after Ibarra questioned whether prosecutor’s action, or inaction, matched its arguments about the case’s severity.
“This case is just as serious from the start to the finish,” she said.
Medeiros-Dancel, who resided in Kahuku, died of “abusive head trauma,” according to a 2003 Hawaii Police Department statement and West Hawaii Today archives. Dancel had summoned emergency help for the boy, saying the infant was having trouble breathing, but Medeiros-Dancel later died at Ka‘u Hospital.
Police initially investigated the case as a coroner’s inquest, but reclassified it to a manslaughter investigation after an autopsy indicated the boy died of abuse, according to police.