Wounded Knee man sentenced in starving death of two-month-old son
Darwin Red Cloud pleaded guilty to second degree murder
The man convicted of starving his two-month-old son to death in 2014 was sentenced in Federal court Thursday in Rapid City after hearing testimony from the defense, prosecutors and family.
Darwin Red Cloud, 26, of Wounded Knee pleaded guilty to Second Degree Murder and was facing a maximum sentence of life in prison. Thursday afternoon, Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken sentenced Red Cloud to 4 years in federal custody with five years of supervised release.
According to U.S. Attorney Sarah Collins, the photos used as evidence showed “every bone sticking out” of the baby’s body and described Red Cloud’s acts as “wildly neglectful behavior.” Collins chose to not use the photos in sentencing because the “court has been subject to the horror.”
Collins also pointed out Red Cloud’s behavior in jail saying he “behaved terribly.” She says he has a record of four assaults in jail, spraying disinfectant on other inmates and threatening staff.
Red Cloud’s attorney, Betsey Harris argued he didn’t have the “insights to have a baby and to care for a child” and that the death was the result of a “confluence of circumstances.”
She also says Red Cloud has cognitive disabilities that contributed to Red Cloud’s son’s death as well as the traumatic environment he grew up in, referencing the fact he did not grow up with a father figure.
Harris alleges Red Cloud did not know the circumstances of the mother, who was a minor at the time of conception. According to Collins, there was sufficient evidence that Red Cloud was aware of her age.
Red Cloud was originally charged with sexual abuse of a minor, a charge that typically requires those convicted to register as a sex offender. The charge was dismissed in a plea agreement as well as first degree murder and felony child abuse and neglect.
Judge Viken said this case was “highly unusual” in that most cases involving the deaths of children involve violence. He added that it was “hard to comprehend the signs were missed by so many” given that so many other people interacted with the baby.
Siblings and extended family of Red Cloud were also in attendance.
His cousin, Kaitlin Catches, spoke on his behalf in court. She emotionally pleaded for leniency and says she only knows him as “protector of [her] family.” Catches says Red Cloud helped raise her brothers and sisters and added “all he wanted to be was a father.”
Red Cloud spoke to the court and said,” I’m sorry. I’m not perfect. I’m a human being whose made mistakes.”
“I may not be the smartest but I know I can do better. I should’ve paid attention more. I’m sorry,” said Red Cloud.
After reading Red Cloud’s fate, Judge Viken said that “some may view [the sentence] as too lenient” but described the help Red Cloud will receive through his sentence to help with the disabilities he has faced.
Red Cloud’s family members were emotional after hearing the sentence.
“As much as we want him here, we’re glad he will be here with us after not much longer,” said Catches.
After the hearing, Red Cloud’s sister, Angie Red Cloud, said she didn’t think the baby showed any signs of emaciation. She said the mother would “bring him down to the house every other day” and says there were a lot of small babies in their family.