By JOHN HOPKINS, The Virginian-Pilot
© July 20, 2007
Donte Young, a Portsmouth man whose crime and punishment - three years in prison for killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter
- outraged the community, is scheduled to be freed from prison today, Virginia prison officials said.
In a 2001 plea agreement, Young pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Imani Mone’ Rodgers.
He was sentenced to 10 years, but all but three years were suspended. In the plea agreement, prosecutors withdrew more serious
charges of capital murder and sexual penetration with an object.
Imani was molested and killed a month after the courts granted custody of the child to Young, a convicted drug
trafficker, without conducting a background check. Imani’s death sparked a drive to toughen state laws governing children,
foster care, adoptions and the termination of parental rights in cases of abuse and neglect.
Barbara Rodgers, Imani’s grandmother, said Young’s release from prison comes far too soon, but she
understands she can’t change the sentence now.
“I don’t think he got enough time,” she said this week. “He’s coming out a free man.
Imani’s dead and gone forever. I guess that’s the way the system works.”
Six years ago, the plea agreement between prosecutors and Young angered many in the community and beyond. Prosecutors
later added five years to Young’s sentence for a probation violation.
Young, 28, served his sentence at Greensville Correctional Center near Jarratt, according to Larry Traylor, a Virginia
Department of Corrections spokesman. Upon his release, Young will receive $25 and a bus ticket, if he needs it, Traylor said.
“It’s unfair to the family for the little time he got,” Barbara Rodgers said. “She was
so innocent. She was a beautiful girl.”
Young beat Imani on the morning of May 31, 2000, for wetting the bed. She was brain dead in Children’s Hospital
of The King’s Daughters for days until life support was terminated June 2.
Her injuries included an extensive tear from her vagina to her rectum; head trauma, including contusions to her
face and forehead; bruises to her upper arm and thighs; and a bite mark on her left thigh, according to court records.
Weeks before the child’s death, a juvenile court judge had granted custody of the girl to Young, who married
Imani’s mother in September 1999. The child’s mother was prohibited from having unsupervised visits with Imani
because she couldn’t explain a spiral fracture to the child’s left arm.
Young, who is not Imani’s biological father, was keeping the child at a home in the former Fairwood Homes
section of Portsmouth. A social worker was assigned to keep track of Imani’s safety and living conditions.
There were at least eight people living in the house the day Imani was beaten. All initially denied any knowledge
of Imani’s injuries or how they occurred. Young hid in a closet when medics and police found the child unconscious on
the bathroom floor.
During a police interrogation, Young admitted causing the child’s fatal injuries. He told police his hand
may have slipped by mistake while washing her after she had wet the bed.
While in the Portsmouth jail, Young had to be moved to a single jail cell in a Suffolk lockup to protect himself
from other inmates. He complained of being attacked by inmates while awaiting transfer to prison.
Four years before Imani was sexually molested and fatally beaten, Young’s 1-month-old daughter was killed.
The baby died in May 1996 from brain injuries after suffering multiple skull fractures.
The 15-year-old mother was charged with murder, convicted of felony child abuse and put on probation under the
condition that she seek intensive mental health treatment and parenting instruction.
Young, 17 at the time, was not charged with his daughter’s death.
John Hopkins, (757) 222-5221, firstname.lastname@example.org