Child killer Warren Ross has avoided a life sentence for the murder of his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter, Tanilla Warrick-Deaves, with a judge finding her horrific death approached but was not in the worst category.
In the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Stephen Rothman sentenced Ross, 31, to a maximum jail term of 40 years with a non-parole period of 30 years.
Warren Ross sentenced to 40 years
NSW Supreme Court judge sentences a man found guilty of murdering two-year-old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves to 40 years in jail. Nine News
"No person with any modicum of humanity could not be moved by the circumstances of this murder," Justice Rothman said.
Ross relentlessly beat Tanilla, aged two years and eight months, into unconsciousness at her Watanobbi home on the central coast following weeks of abuse, which culminated in her death on August 30, 2011. He had moved in with her mother, Donna Deaves, just two months earlier and Tanilla had taken to calling him ‘‘daddy’’.
After a seven-week trial Ross was found guilty of murder by a jury in December last year but he continues to maintain his innocence.
In sentencing Ross, Justice Rothman said Ross had intended to cause Tanilla grievous bodily harm and had shown no remorse or regret for his actions, nor for his failture to seek medical attention which could have saved the child's life.
In the weeks before her death, he forced Tanilla to run laps, whipped her with various implements and hit her as punishment for soiling herself.
The abuse culminated in him striking the child repeatedly, banging her head on a glass shower screen, putting her under cold water, holding her over the toilet, calling her a ‘‘black dog’’ and causing her to bash her head on a linen cupboard door.
She lay unconscious in a pram for two days until she stopped breathing.
Tanilla’s mother Donna Deaves told the jury she watched Ross beat her daughter but was unable to stop it. She was jailed for at least nine years for manslaughter.
Tensions were high in the courtroom as the sentence was handed down with Ross mouthing at Tanilla’s father, Adrian Warrick, who became visibly distressed. Corrective Services and court officers stepped in to calm both men down.
As Justice Rothman announced September 26, 2041 as the earliest date for release, Ross’ mother stood up, banged her hands and yelled, "I’ll be dead by then!’’
As he was taken down to the cells, Ross, wearing a prison green T-shirt and sporting a goatee, yelled out, "See you in jail, Adrian".
Dozens of riot squad officers kept the two families apart.
Justice Rothman said Ross did not have a dysfunctional childhood nor has he been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness.
He does have anti-social qualities and a history of heavy drug use and he smoked marijuana immediately before he fatally assaulted Tanilla.
Justice Rothman said he could not avoid noting that child welfare authorities knew about Tanilla’s family situation yet the toddler was not removed despite ‘‘obvious injuries’’.