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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sentence for toddler’s killer rests with jury

Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz drew two lines Thursday on a sheet of butcher paper to show jurors how vulnerable 2-year-old Victoria Ramon was to the man who murdered her last December.

Beside defendant Robert L. Doney Jr.’s line, 5 feet 10 inches from the floor, Steinmetz wrote Doney’s weight: 260 pounds. Beside Ramon’s line, exactly a yard from the floor, Steinmetz wrote “30 pounds.”

While he was writing, a projector showed the grinning toddler in a photograph taken a week before Doney crushed her skull and caused other injuries. The girl’s mother, Joan Richards, fled the courtroom in tears when Steinmetz enumerated the wounds.

Court-appointed defense attorney Tim Trageser called for jurors to be fair-minded in deliberations that began about 3:15 p.m. Thursday, conceding that Ramon “wasn’t given the same consideration.”

Jurors are to resume deliberations this morning, to decide whether Doney is guilty of deliberate cruelty, “egregious lack of remorse” or choosing a “particularly vulnerable” victim.

Doney pleaded guilty in March to first-degree premeditated murder. This week’s trial is to determine whether Doney is guilty of aggravating factors allowing Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque to impose more than the maximum-standard 271/2-year sentence.

Trageser said in closing arguments that Doney is guilty of no more cruelty than first-degree murder involves by definition.

Steinmetz called the violence “gratuitous.” He noted that Doney killed Ramon because he was angry at Richards, with whom he was living. Steinmetz also reminded jurors of testimony that Doney sometimes called the toddler a vulgar racial slur, and that witnesses heard him boast to Richards that he had killed her daughter.

Police officers testified that they found it “creepy” that Doney hummed and whistled in a patrol car and hospital room after a police dog flushed him out of a crawl space in a relative’s home, Steinmetz said. Trageser suggested Doney was “distracting himself” from police harassment and suicidal feelings.

Steinmetz previously stated in court documents that he might seek a 75-year prison term if Doney is convicted of any of the alleged aggravating factors.

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