The Mukilteo man's actions against the girl and also his failures to act on her behalf earned him 12 1/2 years in prison. A Snohomish County judge on Monday handed down the sentence to Derron Alexis, agreeing with prosecutors that the defendant deserved an exceptional sentence for his egregious actions.
His adopted sister weighed just 51 pounds when she was rescued from his home in 2011. Her body had lost nearly all its fat and started metabolizing her muscles for energy. She had eaten dog food to ease her hunger pains. She had an untreated urinary tract infection and an open wound. She was unable to walk upright and trembled. She was afraid to tell anyone what she had endured.
A jury last month convicted Alexis, 44, of first-degree criminal mistreatment and unlawful imprisonment. They also found that Alexis committed the crimes under aggravating circumstances, including that the victim was particularly vulnerable.
The girl "was sent 3,000 miles from her home, away from the family she cared so much about, away from anyone who could stand up for her. If any child was vulnerable to abuse, it was this child," deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul wrote.
The jury's verdict left the door open for Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne to go beyond a standard range set by the state sentencing guidelines commission.
Paul asked for 15 years, the maximum under the law. She said on Monday that in many ways Alexis was more culpable than his former girlfriend Mary Mazalic.
Mazalic also was convicted of abusing the girl. The girl testified that Mazalic whipped her with electrical cords, forced her to sleep outside and burned her with lit cigarettes. Mazalic is serving 30 years in prison.
She was the girl's primary caregiver. Alexis worked full-time outside of the home as an airplane mechanic, even though he also was being paid by the state to be Mazalic's caretaker.
"He knew more than anyone the depravity of Mary Mazalic," Paul said. "He knew she was unable to care for herself let alone a child."
The girl's foster parents, who are working toward adopting her, also asked the judge for the maximum sentence. While she is thriving in their home, the girl, now 13, will always carry with her the memories of being neglected, starved and abused, they said.
Alexis on Monday maintained that he wasn't responsible for the girl's care. He testified at trial that he never wanted her in his home because he didn't know anything about raising a child. His elderly mother, the girl's adoptive parent, sent the child to Washington because she didn't want her in special education classes. She and Mazalic made arrangements about the girl's care, he said.
"How can I fix a problem when I wasn't told of it?" he said Monday
Alexis said his only failure was that somehow the girl didn't feel comfortable talking to him about "issues."
He plans to appeal his conviction.
Everett defense attorney Tom Cox urged the judge not to impose an exceptional sentence.
"There is no argument that he should have done more to protect (the girl) from Mary Mazalic, but there is debate about how much he really understood what was going on at the home," Cox wrote.
His client didn't have any prior felony criminal history and has led a productive life, the lawyer said.
Wynne found, however, that Alexis was an active participant in the crimes against the girl.
"This was not a case where a child was merely undernourished. She was starved," Wynne said. "No child in this country should be in that condition, especially in a home where there was plenty of food."
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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