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Sentencing in local shaken baby case emotional for family

By WKTV News

(WKTV) - It was Feb. 13, 2003, when Joshua Castello violently shook his two-week-old daughter Lorelei in the family's home at the Heritage Acres Trailer Park in Schuyler.

Today. more than 11 years later, he is heading to state prison for that crime.

Lorelei suffered severe brain injuries after being shaken and then lived a difficult life for nine years and seven months, finally succumbing to the injuries in 2012.

Joshua Castello, 33, now of Rome, was originally charged with assault in Herkimer County Court  in 2003, but didn't serve any jail time.  He was ordered to stay away from his own daughter.

Earlier this year, well over a year after his daughter's death, Castello was indicted on one count of manslaughter.

In March, he pleaded guilty to that charge in exchange for an agreed upon sentence of three to nine years in state prison.

Today, he was sentenced to that agreed-upon plea offer and was taken away to serve his time, but not before some very emotional words from members of Lorelei's family.

Lorelei's mother, Renee Nelson of Rome gave her victim impact statement and talked a lot about how difficult her daughter's life was after being shaken.

"Lorelei suffered a stroke and had severe swelling on the brain, uncontrollable seizures, retinal hemorrhaging, and was placed in a medically induced coma for weeks," Nelson said.  "Lorelei never progressed beyond the developmental age of a 6-month-old baby, leaving her unable to eat , crawl or walk."

Lorelei's maternal grandfather, Rodney Morgan of Rome, also spoke at Friday's sentencing, but much of his statement was directed directly to Castello, who stood just feet away from him.

Morgan told Castello, "You did not admit right away being responsible for her injuries until three or four days later after the interrogation, and after you had gone to take the lie detector test.  In the meantime, Renee had to endure the pain of what had happened to her child, and the hours of interrogation as a suspect herself."

Morgan said in all 11 years since Castello shook Lorelei, he never felt Castello was remorseful and he told him that.

"If you were remorseful at all, the least you would have done is financially help support her, and you never offered to help pay any funeral expense of your own daughter."

Renee Nelson told the court she remembers the first 15 days of her daughter's life as being a joyous time with her first child, but then everything changed in an instant.

"For nine years and seven months after being shaken, Lorelei fought every day of her life.  The most amazing memory that I will always have with my daughter is hearing her laugh.  The one time that she laughed in her life, a moment that somebody takes for granted.  Once in nine years, seven months and 16 days I was able to hear her giggle, just once," Nelson said.

Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Dawn Catera Lupi also spoke in court on Friday.  She hopes this case can serve as a lesson to other young parents out there about how dangerous it is to shake a baby.

"And I think if we were able to take a videotape of what was said in this courtroom today and show it to young parents, so they could see how their actions toward a very small child could cause such devastation for years, I would hope it would help them to learn how to treat a baby in the way a baby needs to be treated," Catera Lupi said.

Oneida County Court Judge Barry Donalty, who had the responsibility of sentencing Castello, gave him the agreed upon three to nine years in state prison, but not before he too had some words for Castello.

Donalty told Castello he was disturbed by a statement he had made to his parole officer during his pre-sentence interview.

"I'm going to quote that section of the pre-sentence report, in which it says you, the defendant, understand that the loss of their daughter has devastated Renee and believes that her grief is the reason that he has been charged with this crime," Donalty said.  "Let me tell you right now, Renee is full of grief, there's no question about that, the reason you're charged with this crime is because you caused the death of your daughter. That's the reason you are charged with this crime."

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