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Pasco County Woman Charged with Murder of Infant

Authorities in Pasco County charged Chekayla Dampier with second-degree murder. They accuse Dampier of murdering her 7-week old son last April by holding him under a spout of blistering 142-degree water as a punishment for crying. At the time of the baby's death, Dampier was 18 years old, single, unemployed and without a permanent home.

Dampier was recently interviewed by the Tampa Bay Times. According to investigators, the baby was burned by scalding water on his head, face, lips, ears, chest and back. They reported that the baby's skin bubbled, his clothes and diaper were soiled.

Authorities allege Dampier waited hours before having a friend take her and the infant to the hospital. She said she doesn't know why she never called an ambulance.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Dampier confessed to purposely hurting the child. Dampier told a Times reporter, however, that the injuries were accidental during a bath. She told the reporter she didn't think the baby's injuries were serious until she got to the hospital and that she didn't know how hot the water was.

Dampier's child died 12 days after the incident. The medical examiner says the baby had scalding burns covering 21 percent of his body.

Dampier's great aunt reports that Dampier was abused by her mother as a small child. After moving in with the great aunt, it was clear that Dampier was troubled. She ran away often and was arrested for the first time at age 11.

She is charged with second-degree murder and, at this point, intends to take her case to trial. A person is guilty of second-degree murder in Florida if she kills someone "by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual". A conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Florida jury instructions help jurors determine whether an "imminently dangerous" act that shows a "depraved mind" occurred. Three elements must be present:

  1. A "person of ordinary judgment" would know the act, or series of acts, "is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another";
  2. The act is "done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent"; and
  3. The act is "of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life."

Note that prosecutors do not have to prove the defendant actually intended to cause death.

No trial date has been set.

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