A NSW man who shook his former partner’s baby girl to death will spend at least four years in prison.
Baby Alyviah Hayne was just seven months old when she died in a Grafton home in December 2015.
At the time, no cause of death could be ascertained and the matter was referred to the coroner.
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Following an inquest in 2020, Jake Luscombe, the former partner of Alyviah’s mother Brooke Skinner, was charged with manslaughter over her death.
The 27-year-old pleaded guilty to the charge earlier this year and was on Tuesday sentenced in Coffs Harbour District Court to five years and 10 months in prison, with a non-parole period of four years.
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“This victim was a vulnerable, precious little soul who was entrusted into the care of the offender,” Judge Jennifer English said in sentencing Luscombe.
Baby Alyviah died in December 2015. Credit: 7NEWS
In pleading guilty, Luscombe admitted to inflicting a “traumatic non-accidental head injury by way of the application of rotational acceleration and deceleration force to her head”.
Shaken to death
On the day of Alyviah’s death, Skinner had left her in Luscombe’s care while she went to her father’s house.
Alyviah was “laughing and smiling” and in a red walker at the time.
Skinner was only gone for 41 minutes.
When she returned home, she saw Alyviah laying on the couch and assumed she was sleeping.
But about 10 minutes later, she returned upstairs to see her baby with froth coming out of her nose and started screaming that she wasn’t breathing.
A neighbour helped perform CPR on Alyviah before paramedics arrived.
By the time they got there, she was cold to touch, with a blue head and lips, and mottling on the sides of her body, an inquest into her death heard.
The seven-month-old was taken to hospital, where she died shortly after.
Skinner left Alyviah in a red walker before her death. Credit: 7NEWSAlyviah was only seven months old. Credit: 7NEWS
An autopsy found she had suffered unexplained trauma to her body, bruising to the top of her forehead and buttocks and swelling on her brain.
In two interviews he had with police in the weeks and months after her death, Luscombe denied responsibility for her death.
In his first police interview, the partner said he was washing the dishes while the baby slept, but in his second interview, he was downstairs cleaning the fish tank.
Alyviah’s death was referred to the coroner and an inquest took place in 2020.
The inquest heard Luscombe gave police inconsistent accounts of what happened, originally stating “I gave her a bottle, she drank a little bit … and I came back 20 minutes later”.
But no food or liquids were found in Alyviah’s body.
One expert told the inquest, one of two haemorrhages detected in Alyviah required a “significant amount of force to occur”.
She suspected “vigorous shaking” may have caused her head to whiplash and contributed to her death.
Charged and sentenced
Luscombe was charged last year after the inquest findings were handed down.
On Tuesday, Judge English found the 27-year-old caused the baby girl’s death in an “unlawful and dangerous act” that probably only lasted a few seconds.
The court heard Luscombe had a criminal record that included assault, weapons and drugs charges and was on parole at the time of Alyviah’s death, which was a “serious fact of aggravation”, English said.
His upbringing was one of “profound dysfunction and deprivation”, the judge said.
Jake Luscombe pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Credit: 7NEWS
Luscombe has been assaulted behind bars and will need to be in protective custody for the length of his sentence, making his time in custody more onerous, she added.
Sometime before his arrest, Luscombe was kidnapped by Skinner and left in the bush, the motivation for which Judge English said was “retribution” and a desire to extract information about her child’s death from him.
Judge English made a finding of special circumstances to allow for a longer parole period to assist Luscombe with his re-integration into society and to help him with rehabilitation.
For his guilty plea, Luscombe received a 25 per cent discount on sentence as “it demonstrates contrition,” Judge English said.
“He has expressed remorse as best he can,” she said.
Earlier this year, Skinner broke her silence over her daughter’s death, telling 7NEWS she was happy to finally be getting some justice.
She said she lives with regret over leaving Alyviah in Luscombe’s care on that fateful day.
“I live with regret every day,” she said.
“I was only ducking up the road … she was happy playing and I left her there.
“I have to live with that every day.”
Luscombe has been in custody since his arrest.
He will first be eligible for parole in October 2026.
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