NORWALK, Ohio - A year to the day after 11-year-old Connre Dixon was stabbed to death, her foster father was sent to prison for three years for causing her fatal wounds with a hunting knife.
Paul Efaw, 59, of Ridgefield Township was given the minimum prison term for voluntary manslaughter during an emotional hearing yesterday before Judge Earl McGimpsey in Huron County Common Pleas Court. Efaw was convicted last month by a jury that found he had killed the girl Oct. 18, 2004, in a fit of rage during an argument behind his home on State Rt. 99.
In a 911 call from the home that day, a boy told a sheriff's dispatcher his sister had been threatening their father with a knife.
The girl's biological relatives responded to the sentence with muffled gasps and sighs. Earlier, Connre's grandmother, Debra Stover, told Efaw during a tearful statement that the girl's violent death had devastated her family.
"It has completely destroyed our lives," Mrs. Stover said, her anguished voice filling the courtroom. "I have seen no remorse from you - not a tear shed."
Mrs. Stover said the pain of Connre's death had caused her husband to begin drinking again after 23 years of sobriety.
"I just want to say on behalf of Connre, how could you do that to her? You had no right to take her life like you did," she said, her voice choked with emotion.
Before he was sentenced, Efaw expressed regret in a statement to Judge McGimpsey.
"This is something that's affected me mentally and physically," Efaw told the judge. "I didn't want this to happen. I'm 59 years old. I wanted to take somebody in and help a family. I'm sorry this happened. This is something I've got to live with, regardless of the outcome."
His son Paul Efaw, Jr., also addressed the court to urge leniency for his father.
"He is very remorseful for what happened," Mr. Efaw said. "It's a tragic accident."
County Prosecutor Russ Leffler cited that discrepancy as he asked Judge McGimpsey to give Efaw 9 or 10 years in prison.
"On the witness stand, he did not tell the truth when he said this was an accident," Mr. Leffler said, adding later, "She did not overwhelm this man. That was a lie from the get-go."
Efaw told investigators at the time of his arrest last year Connre fell on the knife during a struggle, authorities said.
However, Huron County Coroner Jeffrey Harwood said an autopsy showed the girl was stabbed purposely by another person, and the knife was plunged into her chest several times.
Laura Perkovic, an attorney for Efaw, cited her client's lack of a prior criminal record and the circumstances of the incident as she requested community control instead of prison time.
"He has led a law-abiding life for 59 years," Ms. Perkovic said. "He stood here today and showed genuine remorse."
Judge McGimpsey said the defendant's age, his lack of other criminal convictions, and the circumstances of Connre's death required the minimum prison term under Ohio law.
"This was a very unique offense," the judge said. "There is no suggestion that the defendant went out looking for this."
However, after pronouncing the sentence, the judge acknowledged that the case involved a child who died at the hands of a grown-up, even if an element of self-defense was involved.
"The thing that bothers the court, and I'm sure bothers many of you, is the big man, little girl syndrome. We might have had a very different result if Connre Dixon had been a grown man fighting with Mr. Efaw," he said.
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