A 23-year-old Lummi man has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for squeezing his daughter's head "until he heard it make a popping sound" earlier this year.
Lawrence V. Tom Jr. faces a maximum of 10 years in prison after entering the plea Wednesday, Nov. 29, in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
He was home alone with his 6-month-old daughter, Casey Jo Tom, and another 18-month-old child on May 10, 2012. He was "tired" and "frustrated" because Casey would not stop crying, according to a criminal complaint. Tom squeezed her head between his right bicep and forearm, until he heard the skull crack. He claimed, in an interview with an FBI agent, "he did not know he hurt her as badly as he did."
Three days later he asked neighbors to call 911 because the baby had stopped breathing.
Casey was rushed to the hospital but died from skull fractures and bleeding in her brain.
In a plea agreement, Tom's defense attorney recommended that he serve the maximum sentence of 10 years. A hearing is scheduled for March 8, 2013.
The court found voluntary manslaughter to be the appropriate charge because "while in a sudden quarrel or heat of passion, caused by adequate provocation, (Tom) killed his victim recklessly with extreme disregard for human life."
Before his arrest, Tom wrote on Facebook that his daughter died from sudden infant death syndrome.
"Absolutely, positively, definitely not SIDS," Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel said at the time. "Homicide."
Because the crime occurred on Lummi Reservation, it was investigated by Lummi police and the FBI, and then tried in federal court.