KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Portage woman who was responsible for the death of a 2-year-old girl early last year is headed to a state prison.
Tranaya Spencer, 22, was sentenced Monday to between two years and 15 years in prison with credit for 164 days served for the manslaughter of Royalty Regina Mae Hooper-Houston.
The 164 days Spencer already spent in jail will also serve as her sentence for a count of third-degree child abuse. She will have to pay fines and fees.
“I just want to say that I’m sorry,” Spencer, who has two children of her own, told the judge before her sentence was handed down. “…I just want to say that I just regret everything that happened. I was caring for Royalty since she was 6 months old and I loved her liked one of my own daughter. I would never do anything to intentionally hurt her.”
She said her family members planned to go to the cemetery to put flowers on Royalty’s grave on Jan. 12, when she would have turned 3 years old.
Royalty was found unconscious with a temperature of 106 degrees on March 13, 2020, at a Portage apartment where Spencer was babysitting her. She was rushed to the hospital, where she died a few days later.
The death was ruled a homicide, with the medical examiner determining the cause of death to be multiple injuries, including asphyxia.
According to court records, Royalty was swaddled in a blanket with clothes knotted around it to keep it from opening. At sentencing, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Christin Mehrtens-Carlin said that in punishment for the little girl having a potty training accident, Spencer wrapped Royalty in a blanket with clothes knotted around it and made her lay on the floor for several hours.
Spencer told investigators that when she tried to get the girl up a few hours earlier, she was unresponsive. Spencer said she rushed Royalty into the shower to tried to revive her and in the process hit her head against the wall more than once.
“An adult knows that if you wrap up a 2-year-old for several hours, you are taking a great risk of death or great bodily harm,” Mehrtens-Carlin told the judge. “And that risk includes when you then take the child and are shaking the child under water and shaking her so hard that you slam her head off the wall and slam her body on the ground. Those are all thing the defendant admitted that she did.”
However, she noted that prosecutors are not suggesting Spencer intended to commit murder.
Merhtens-Carlin said the little girl’s family declined to speak at sentencing, citing their continuing grief.
“But they did want me to advocate on their behalf,” she continued. “And some of things I’ve learned from the family about the 2-year-old that they thought were important are that this little girl went by the nickname of Ro-Ro, her favorite colors were pink and purple, she was very social. She had learned how to take photographs or pictures with her mother’s phone and she liked to do that.”
Judge Paul Bridenstine said he believed Spencer when she said she didn’t mean to kill Royalty but that he must recognize her actions were “completely inappropriate” and “grossly negligent.” He sentenced her within guidelines.