Corbett convicted of homicide in death of toddler

DOVER — A former Dover Air Force Base airman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide Thursday regarding the death of a toddler in his care in 2012.

Justin K. Corbett, 28, of Magnolia, is facing zero to eight years in prison when sentenced in Kent County Superior Court on Sept. 15.

Judge Robert B. Young ordered a pre-sentence investigation and Corbett was released on his own recognizance.

The jury also had the option to convict on first- or second-degree murder by abuse or manslaughter. First-degree murder by abuse, a Class A felony on which Corbett was tried, could have brought 15 years to life in prison.

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Justin K. Corbett

Evan J. Dudley, 21 months old, died four days after suffering severe injuries on Nov. 3, 2012 at Corbett’s residence, including seven separate wounds under the scalp and injuries to the top of his head, jaw, nose, cheek, forehead, thigh and elbow, retinal hemorrhages to both eyes, and one detached retina.

Reached by phone afterward, the late child’s mother Nicole “Nikki” Dudley, a 30-year-old Air Force staff sergeant, said “The evidence spoke for itself and to sit there and say this person might not serve time for killing a child (is not right) … and he gets to go see his (children).”

The verdict came after a nearly two-week trial in during which Ms. Dudley said, “I haven’t slept and barely eaten.”

At one point, regarding upcoming sentencing, Ms. Dudley said, “The fight is not over.”

According to Ms. Dudley, “It doesn’t feel like justice. If they (people) saw an autopsy picture of her own child like that, they would feel the same way.

“It’s very traumatic and traumatizing and will be for the rest of my life.

Ms. Dudley said an alternate juror contacted her afterward to express disgust with the verdict. The initial jury included 11 women and 5 men before four alternates were dismissed at the end of the trial.

Corbett previously received an honorable discharge from the Air Force, where he met Ms. Dudley and worked with her.

Ms. Dudley designated Corbett’s wife as a secondary caregiver for her son upon deployment to Qatar.

According to testimony, Corbett had regular contact with the child and cared for him alone previous to the incident.

During closing arguments on Wednesday, the courtroom was packed with approximately 50 onlookers and drew significant attendance throughout a string of witnesses, including Ms. Dudley and Corbett’s wife, medical experts, emergency first responders, police, acquaintances and presentation of evidence.

Deputy Attorney Generals Annmarie Puit and Josette Manning prosecuted the case, with attorneys William Deely and Caitlin Gregory representing Corbett.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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