A man and woman who subjected a three-year-old boy to months of abuse, leaving him with a ruptured bowel and head injury that killed him, will be sentenced for manslaughter today.
Tania Shailer and David William Haerewa were originally charged with the murder of Moko Rangitoheriri, but the Crown accepted a guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The pair were meant to be looking after Moko but instead, for two months they beat him leaving him with fatal head injuries, a ruptured intestine and other injuries including bite marks on his face.
In the last 24 hours of his life, Moko was stomped on and choked. He was so sick he could not stand or control his bowels. Haerewa responded by kicking the child, rubbing his faeces in his face and shutting him in his room for hours.
That decision caused public outrage and a protest is expected outside High Courts around the country, including Rotorua. A media release from the organisers refers to the plea bargain as a "sleazy" practice.
Attorney General Christopher Finlayson said he would talk about the decision to downgrade the charges following this morning's sentencing.
The pair face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The agreed summary of facts on the court file makes harrowing reading.
Moko's mother, Nicola Dally-Paki, left Moko and his older sister in the care of her friend Tania Shailer and her partner David Haerewa in June last year because another of her children was in Auckland's Starship hospital.
Over four months, Shailer and Haerewa's abuse of Moko escalated.
Haerewa later told police he didn't like "Moko's ways" and thought - somehow - that the three-year-old was "taking advantage".
Other children in the house reported the adults punching, kicking, slapping and even biting Moko.
During the final four days he was thrown on to his bed - a mattress on the floor. He was stomped on his back and kicked.
Moko was so badly injured he couldn't walk and lost control of his bowels.
He was locked in the bathroom and in his room for hours at a time.
But the abuse continued. Moko was also dropped head-first several times.
When an ambulance was finally called they found Moko lying face-down in the hallway with Shailer kneeling next to him.
When the paramedics saw what state Moko was in, they rushed him immediately to Taupō hospital.
The post-mortem examination revealed a catalogue of grisly injuries. Moko was found with a ruptured bowel, there was swelling and bleeding on his brain.
The pathologist was unable to say which of the injuries proved fatal.
The pathologist also found human bite marks, multiple bruises, and cuts.
Today's sentencing will not be the last chapter in the case. Coroner Wallace Bain will hold an inquest into Moko's death.
Dr Bain conducted the inquest into the death of Nia Glassie and has compared the two cases.
He said despite the Nia Glassie case, sadly, eight years on he will again be considering the case of a child who died at the hands of the very people put in charge to care for the child.
Dr Bain said on the face of it, the abuse suffered by Moko appeared to be worse than that inflicted on Nia.
He described Moko's injuries as "horrific".
He said he would be looking at what steps, if any, had been taken since Nia's death by the agencies charged with keeping children safe.