Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Man found guilty for playing part in death of 4-year-old Aaliyah Smith

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    Heather Woodmore holds a photograph of her cousin Danielle Smith's daughter Aaliyah Smith, 4.

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When his girlfriend, Bridgett White, told him she had beaten 4-year-old Aaliyah Smith, Tyrone Hooks did nothing.

When White told him she was using heroin again, Hooks did nothing.

And, when Hooks returned home after more than a week on the road driving a truck, young Aaliyah already had been beaten to death by White.

On Thursday, Hooks, 52, of the 1000 block of Shadowlawn Drive, entered an Alford plea to endangering children, a third-degree felony, for his role in Aaliyah’s death. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to committing a crime, but acknowledges evidence is sufficient for a conviction that could result in a more severe sentence.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks found him guilty after listening to the harrowing facts of the case. She told Hooks he faces up to three years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 29.

On July 27, Judge Franks sentenced White to life in prison without the possibility of parole for aggravated murder and endangering children.

Frank Spryszak, an assistant county prosecutor, told the court that Hooks had left Aaliyah and her 8-year-old sister in White’s care while he was on the road between Nov. 12 and Nov. 21.

While Aaliyah was not the couple’s biological child, they’d had a child together who had been removed from their custody due to White’s heroin addiction.

“He knowingly left these children in her care for over a week with the knowledge that she wasn’t capable of handling her own biological child due to her drug problem,” Mr. Spryszak said. “The defendant was not present when the physical abuse occurred, however he was in constant communication with Miss White via text message and phone calls.”

While White’s text messages were shocking — she told Hooks she wanted Aaliyah out of the house before she killed her and, later, that the young girl would have marks on her because she “beat her ass” — Hooks’ replies were callous.

“He later responds, on that same day, ‘Her bad ass better learn how to listen. She’s making it rough on everybody involved. I’m trying to get back to tend to the matter as quick as I can,’” Mr. Spryszak said.

When White told Hooks how marks from a beating were showing on Aaliyah, Mr. Spryszak said, “Mr. Hooks responded, ‘We don’t need that trouble.’”

On Nov. 17, Mr. Spryszak said, White “confided via text message to Mr. Hooks that she had started using heroin again and this is important because Mr. Hooks did not take any steps to have the children removed from the home. ... So he was leaving two children, ages 8 and 4, in the home with a heroin addict.”

Judge Franks asked whether Hooks had, at any point, called police or EMS or anyone to go check on Aaliyah.

Mr. Spryszak said there was no evidence he had done that, although at one point, Hooks told White he was “going to try to make some phone calls to have the child removed from the home. I’m not aware that ever occurred.”

As part of a plea agreement, a more serious charge of permitting child abuse is to be dismissed at sentencing. Permitting child abuse is a first-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.

Co-defendant Shaqunia Williams, 28, who had legal custody of the two girls, is scheduled for trial Aug. 28 on a charge of endangering children. Prosecutors allege that Ms. Williams had given the children to Hooks — her stepfather — because she could no longer care for them. Hooks also is the father of the 8-year-old.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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