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Mich. Sailor Gets Prison For Killing Infant Daughter

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BENTON HARBOR (AP) – A Navy seaman from Michigan who was stationed in Japan was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing his infant daughter by hitting her in the chest last year.

Lequae Caldwell, a 23-year-old from Benton Harbor, also received a dishonorable discharge, reduction in grade and forfeiture of pay during the Feb. 16 court-martial proceedings at his naval base in Yokosuka, the Navy confirmed in a statement sent Wednesday to The Associated Press.

Caldwell, a gas turbine systems technician fireman who previously had been assigned to the USS Fitzgerald, pleaded guilty to murder in the Jan. 5, 2001, death of his 5-month-old daughter, Avianna.

According to the Navy, Caldwell told the military judge he struck his daughter’s chest twice with the side of his palm in a “karate chop-like blow.” A medical examiner testified that the blows caused her heart to rupture, leading to her death.

A Navy official was checking Wednesday with a military lawyer for Caldwell to find out whether he would comment on Caldwell’s behalf. A person who answered the telephone at a listing in Benton Harbor associated with Caldwell’s name declined to comment.

Caldwell has been in custody since the day after his daughter’s death.

Caldwell initially was sentenced to 21 years in prison, but in exchange for the plea he’ll serve no more than 15 years, the Navy said.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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