Sahara's killer Kerry Ratana jailed
Kerry Ratana has been sentenced to 16 and a half years' jail for killing and sexually violating his five-year-old step daughter Sahara Jayde Baker-Koro.
Ratana, 25, killed Sahara on December 20, 2010. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied a charge of sexual violation.
Ratana appeared before Justice Denis Clifford in the High Court in Napier this morning.
Justice Clifford imposed a minimum prison term of eight years and three months.
The court heard an emotional and tearful victim impact statement read by Sahara's paternal grandmother Karen Koro.
Mrs Koro said Sahara was a dearly loved daughter and grand-daughter who had an infectious laugh and "enough love for anyone who came into contact with her".
Ratana performed "a cowardly act" when he took her life, she said.
Mrs Koro said life would never be the same for her family and she hoped Ratana had had time in prison to reflect on his actions.
"We won't be able to hug her, kiss her, or tell her how much we love her," she said.
She said her husband was particularly distraught as he had been very close to Sahara, and the pair often spoke on telephone and would both cry when they had to say goodbye.
Ratana bowed his head and wept as she read, but later when Justice Clifford recited the facts concerning the sexual offending Ratana became agitated, shook his head and muttered "nup".
Ratana's father Charles was given permission to speak. He addressed Sahara's family and apologised on behalf of his son and his family.
"We feel devastated as a family and I want to say how sorry we are that this has happened," he said, crying as he spoke.
Ratana lived with Chantally Baker, their two-year-old son Rome, and two of Ms Baker's daughters from a previous relationship, Taylor, 7, and Sahara.
Ms Baker last saw Sahara about 3.30pm before leaving for work on December 20, 2010. She was woken by a phone call at the couple's Napier house about midnight and heard Ratana crying and speaking on the phone.
She asked him what was wrong but he just kept saying, "I'm sorry".
She knew something was wrong so she went to check on her two daughters. She found Taylor asleep, but Sahara was "cold as ice".
Ratana killed Sahara about 7pm. He said he was angry at her so took her to her room and crushed her chest until she stopped breathing.
She died after the right atrium of her heart ruptured.
On finding her cold, pale body in bed, Ms Baker held Sahara and screamed at Ratana, asking what had happened.
She said Ratana said "I love you. I'm sorry. I raped her". Ratana denied saying that and consistently denied sexually violating the girl.
Ratana's lawyer John Rowan QC said Ratana was very remorseful and had pleaded guilty to killing Sahara at a very early stage.
Prosecution lawyer Clayton Walker said the injuries sustained to Sahara when she was sexually violated were extensive and would have been extremely painful.
Sahara was a vulnerable young child and Justice Clifford need to consider the serious breach of trust Ratana had committed.
Mr Walker also noted Ratana's failure to seek medical assistance for Sahara.
He said while it would not have helped due to the severity of Sahara's injury, Ratana did not know this. He had deliberately not sought assistance as he did not want to alert anyone to what he had done. That was "inexcusable" Mr Walker said.
As Ratana was led out of the dock today, he lunged toward a Dominion Post reporter, picking up his laptop and punching it to the ground. He was then restained by four guards and led away, struggling.
Last month, a High Court jury took a little over two hours to find Ratana guilty of all charges.
The Dominion Post