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    Mother sentenced in killing of her son

    Her housemate is serving life for beating the child to death while she did nothing to stop it. She is given 11 1/2 years.

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001


    LARGO -- Prosecutors say Kimberly Gee showed no compassion for her 2-year-old son when hitting him or burning him with cigarettes or dumping him out of a stroller when his crying annoyed her.

    Then she did nothing when a housemate abused her son, Dustin, and finally beat him to death after the boy interrupted his favorite wrestling show.

    As Gee listened to lawyers in court the day before her trial on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child, she slipped a note to her attorney. She didn't want to go through with it.

    "She didn't want her son's name dragged through another trial," said her attorney, Brent Armstrong.

    Late Monday, a mother who freely acknowledged mercilessly beating her child decided to plead no contest to spare his memory the indignity of a trial.

    Pinellas Circuit Judge Phillip Federico sentenced her to 111/2 years in prison for failing to stop the abuse by the housemate who killed her son.

    Walter Morris, 29, the man who inflicted the fatal blows in December 1997, already had been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

    "The difference between (Gee's) case and most others is that this is a crime of not doing anything, a failure to protect," said prosecutor Tim Hessinger.

    The judge offered the 111/2-year sentence in exchange for the plea, the minimum allowed by state law absent a compelling reason to go lower.

    Armstrong noted that Gee cooperated with investigators and deserved less time.

    Under state guidelines, the judge could have imposed a sentence of up to 19 years. Under some circumstances, a judge can exceed the maximum.

    Prosecutors had planned to ask for a sentence of up to 30 years if Gee were convicted at trial.

    The judge said he saw no reason for leniency. He said a parent's instinct to protect a child is overwhelming, and yet Gee did nothing to protect Dustin.

    But he agreed not to impose a more severe penalty because of Gee's cooperation.

    Gee acknowledged in testimony at Morris' trial that she was an abusive mother.

    She spanked her son with a ruler and a belt. She pushed him away when he wanted to crawl into her arms. She failed to wash him or change his diapers.

    She slept until early afternoon and kept her son confined to a car seat in the house so that she would be unbothered by him as she watched her soap operas.

    When asked why she didn't take better care of Dustin, Gee said, "I just didn't want to."

    By late 1997, Gee said, Morris had taken over disciplining the boy because she was too soft. Gee said she didn't want to do so any more anyway.

    "I was lazy," the unemployed woman said.

    Armstrong said Gee was bullied and dominated by Morris and feared for her own life if she dared attempted to stop the abuse.

    Gee and her husband, Tim Gee, who is mentally handicapped, shared a Kenneth City apartment with Morris and his girlfriend after moving from Kansas.

    On the night of Dec. 15, 1997, Morris sat down to watch professional wrestling on television.

    Dustin became noisy and started acting up, blocking Morris' view of the TV.

    Morris threw water in his face and put his hand over Dustin's mouth to quiet him.

    Dustin continued to yell. So Morris, prosecutors said, struck him in the chest, knocking him to the floor, where the boy hit his head.

    Morris stepped on his head, kicked him in the stomach and shook him violently.

    He then poured hot sauce down the boy's throat.

    Hours later, Dustin died of his injuries.

    At Morris' trial, Gee said she thought Dustin loved her, despite the abuse.

    A lawyer asked her, "What did you ever do for him that made him love you?"

    Gee said, "I don't know."

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