Father Sentenced to Twenty Years in Death of Infant 

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – Ashton Derione Sessum was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to twenty years in prison for the 2019 death of his two-month-old infant daughter. 

The murder trial began Feb. 22 at the Houston County courthouse in downtown Crockett for the 27-year-old Sessum with the death penalty off the books for Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar. 

“To get the death penalty you have to show that a person will be a future danger to society before a jury could even consider a death penalty,” Kaspar said. “I had information on what happened in this event with this one child, but I didn’t have enough to say that later on he would be a future danger to anybody.”

Sessum’s defense attorneys tried to paint Sessum as a panicked father who did not properly apply CPR after the infant stopped breathing. Kaspar was able to show both a history of abuse and medical evidence to dispute that. 

“My evidence showed he was the only one that had the opportunity to injure the baby and ultimately caused his death,” Kaspar explained. “But we also had old injuries and it was obvious very quickly in the investigation the baby had been abused prior to the day he was injured seriously enough to kill him. The defendant did make some excuses for what happened in the past but those excuses didn’t match with what the medical experts were telling us.”

At the time of the baby’s death, Crockett Police Chief Clayton Smith and his detectives were on the front lines of the case. 

Smith indicated CPD detectives traveled at that time to Texas Children’s Hospital in order “… to meet with medical staff and the mother and father of the child. Upon arriving we were immediately notified that the infant would likely not survive and that it was definitely a case of child abuse.”

The medical staff at Texas Children’s Hospital further revealed the infant had suffered numerous internal injuries, a traumatic brain injury, as well as multiple fractured bones and ribs. The CPD detectives also met with the Child Abuse Team at the hospital who confirmed the injuries were consistent with abuse. No other causes for the infant’s injuries were indicated.

Even so, the jury was forced to make difficult distinctions and decisions in the case. 

“My argument was, he knew he was injuring his baby over and over and he knew he could kill it – and he did it anyway. The defense was, ‘The baby stopped breathing and he had to do something – and he panicked and overdid it and injured the baby.’ What the jury thought, I believe, is that he didn’t intend or know he would injure the baby so bad that it would die but that he was reckless in how he handled the baby,” Kaspar noted.

That distinction dropped the case to a manslaughter charge instead of capital murder.

Sessum’s partner at the time and mother of the infant had already pleaded to a lesser charge regarding her involvement in the case. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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