MAYS LANDING — A 20-year-old Atlantic City man pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated manslaughter in the shaking death of a 6-month-old baby he was caring for last September.
The baby’s mother, Ebony Stewart, was dating Daquan Davis at the time of the incident and left the child with him in her home in the Schoolhouse Apartments, on Baltic Avenue, while she went for work.
Davis, who was not the child’s father, said he became frustrated when the baby, Yusuf E’Miy Stewart-Ali Jr., wouldn’t stop crying and tried shaking the child.
Upon returning to the apartment at 3:45 a.m. Sept. 14, Stewart found the baby unresponsive and called 911.
"I picked up my son to see if he was sleeping," she said in September. "I noticed there was blood and that he wasn't breathing. He was cold and stiff. I panicked. I said, 'My son is dead. My son is dead.’”
The infant was pronounced dead at the scene.
Medical evidence in the case shows that shaking was the cause of death, according to Davis’ attorney Joseph Levin.
“I’m happy I can move on with my life,” Stewart said after hearing the plea Wednesday. “At first I didn’t believe it was him, and I didn’t want to believe it was him.”
Stewart, who is now several months pregnant, said she found out she was expecting in March — around the same time as the birthday of Stewart-Ali.
Davis, 19 at the time of the incident, entered his plea before Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Kyran Connor.
When he admitted to the crime in court Wednesday, his grandmother ran out of the courtroom screaming, “I know he didn’t do it.”
Davis’ mother was shaking her head when he told the judge he was guilty.
“There is nothing more tragic than the loss of a child,” Levin said. “Although Davis had no intention of causing the child’s death, today he took responsibility for recklessly doing so. He is sorry and remorseful, and hopes that this will bring some measure of closure to the family.”
Davis graduated from Atlantic City High School last June, three months before the death.
He had been living with Stewart for about a month when the incident occurred, and Stewart knew him as Da'Quon Callaway, according to a previous article in The Press of Atlantic City.
In exchange for Davis’ plea, the state will recommend a 12-year sentence, with an early release option after serving 85 percent of the sentence.
Levin said he will argue for a reduced sentence of 10 years.
Sentencing is set for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 25.
Staff Writer Lynda Cohen contributed to this report.
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