Debresay pleaded not guilty to murdering the toddler 11 years ago, but a Victorian Supreme Court jury today found he was responsible for her death.
They delivered a verdict of guilty on the charge of manslaughter and in doing so accepted the evidence of the victim’s four-year-old brother who witnessed what happened.
He was cleared of the more serious charge of murder.
The Footscray man has been taken into custody to await his pre-sentence hearing in November.
Debresay had been going out with the girl’s mother — who cannot be named for legal reasons — for a few months when the fatal blow was inflicted.
During their short relationship he had taken on the role of disciplining her three children, who called him “Daddy MJ”, his trial heard.
The family had been staying with Debresay on May 13, 2005, when the toddler’s abdomen was deliberately squeezed or compressed by an extreme, severe force. Doctors said it could not have been accidental. She was dead within hours.
When the victim’s brother was asked if he knew what had happened he said he saw Debresay stomping or standing on his sister because she’d been naughty. He told police she did a “wee wee” on the couch and “MJ hit (the victim)”. He had several conversations with police officers, during which he demonstrated the motion used against the two-year-old.
“Beside this stomping motion in this conversation, he also demonstrated a swinging, kicking motion,” prosecutor Sally Flynn said in her closing address to the court.
When a babysitter came over later she noticed the toddler was slumped across the coffee table with her feet on the ground and appeared tired. The jury heard the two-year-old would have been lethargic due to massive internal bleeding caused by the injuries she’d sustained.
Later that day the toddler became unresponsive so her mother rushed her to a medical centre where she was pronounced dead.
Ms Flynn said only two people could have caused the injuries — Debresay or the toddler’s mother — and there was no evidence the mother harmed her.
“By far the worst thing that ever happened to (the victim) was that her mother met the accused,” Ms Flynn said.
Debresay appeared to be holding back tears after the verdict was delivered on Monday.
His mother cried out “bullsh*t” and tried to kiss her son as he was led from the dock.