7.5 year sentence handed down to stepfather who killed toddler

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

19-year-old Tamehana Huata has been sentenced to 7 and a half years for the manslaughter of his two and a half year old stepson Matiu Wereta, known as MJ. Huata appeared in the Napier High Court this morning. 

The public gallery inside court was packed with family members who became emotional and cried when his sentenced was called out.

Justice Susan Thomas stated the facts during sentencing that the toddler was subjected to three sets of injuries, one fatal blow or blows to his head, bite marks to his cheek, shoulder and chest and other injuries causing bruising to his face and body.

Given the boy's age, she said "MJ was defenseless and vulnerable," only weighing 14kg at the time and that his death was a "significant breach of trust".

The court heard that Huata has no prior convictions and was a caring stepfather who the defence lawyer Russell Fairbrother says had an "uncharacteristic loss of self control".

Huata is in a relationship with the boy's mother Erana Tiopira and they were living together in Flaxmere. They remain in a relationship today and she is pregnant with his child.

On the 12th October 2015, both Huata and MJ were sick and stayed home together while Tiopira went to work for the day.

Huata, who was 17-years-old at the time, told police the boy's injuries were accidental and were caused when he hit his head in the shower, then 'donged' his head on the hallway walls before running into a brickwall and then falling down two steps into the living room.

 MJ was found by ambulance staff covered in bruises, his head injuries were critical and proved fatal when he died in hospital two days later.

The court heard how Huata lacked the life skills and maturity to care for a toddler when he himself was unwell at the time of the offending.

Crown lawyer Steve Manning says Huata has shown no remorse. "Remorse must be linked to acceptance of what has been done and this simply does not exist in this case."

In February this year Huata was found guilty by a jury of one count of manslaughter and one count of injury with intent to injure.