Accused child killer posts bail; family outraged
By Brent Curtis
The release of a Poultney man accused of killing his 2-year-old stepdaughter has outraged the girl’s family who said Saturday they will petition to have Dennis Duby returned to jail.
“We want to have him put back where he belongs before he hurts someone else,” said Lisa Eastman, the maternal aunt of toddler Dezirae Sheldon.
Duby, 31, pleaded innocent in February to second-degree murder in the death of Sheldon, who police say died from multiple skull fractures while in his care. He faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison if convicted.
Duby was jailed following his arraignment and remained behind bars until 11:30 p.m. Friday. A corrections officer at the state prison in Swanton said Duby posted $250,000 bail to earn his release.
An employee at Advantage Bail Bonds in Williston said Saturday the company had posted bail for Duby.
Before his arrest, Duby lived in a house on College Street in Poultney. But court-ordered conditions prohibit him from going to that address — the alleged scene of the killing and the home of his wife and Dezirae’s mother, Sandra Eastman.
The court required Duby, if released, to live in Rutland County and to abide by a 24-hour curfew at his residence, described in court as being either of his parents’ homes in Pittsford.
A man who answered the door at Duby’s mother’s home in Pittsford on Saturday said Duby was at work and that he did not know when he would return.
The death of Dezirae outraged the girl’s family members and members of the community who questioned why the girl was returned to the care of her mother who was convicted less than a year earlier of abuse by neglect.
State legislators have been asking similar questions during an ongoing review of cases handled by the Department for Children and Families. DCF removed Dezirae from her mother’s care after she was initially charged with abusing her, but returned the girl to her mother before the end of 2013.
Members of Dezirae’s family, including her biological father, also protested the setting of bail for Duby. They argued he should be jailed with no opportunity for release before his trial.
After his release from jail Friday night, commenters on social media sites dedicated to Dezirae voiced their anger.
“Tell me how our court system let’s this happen ... I am at a loss for words and absolutely disgusted,” one poster wrote on the Facebook group site “Justice for Dezirae.”
Patricia Holden, Dezirae’s paternal aunt and the guardian who cared for the girl after she was removed from her mother’s home last year, said Saturday that Duby’s freedom on bail was an insult to her niece and her family.
“Why would they let someone like that walk?” she said. “I worried that something like this might happen, but I never thought it would come true.”
Holden added, “It’s just not fair that he gets even a little bit of time out of jail when he took the life of my niece. He doesn’t deserve it.”
Sandra Eastman also wants her husband back behind bars.
While some members of Dezirae’s family blame the mother as much as the stepfather for the girl’s death, Eastman has denied any role in the killing. Vermont State Police said video footage of Eastman inside Poultney stores Feb. 19 show that she wasn’t present when her daughter was fatally injured.
Reached by phone Saturday, Eastman said she worried that her husband would try to seek her out despite a court order prohibiting him from having any contact with her.
“He said to me before his arrest that if I’m accused of this I’m going to take off or kill myself,” she said. “He’s just so jealous a person, I’m worried that he might try to take me with him.”
Eastman also said Saturday was her final day of moving out of the home she shared with Duby and her deceased daughter.
“I don’t even have a home now,” she said. “But I can’t stay at that house ... too many memories and bad images.”
Eastman and several of Dezirae’s other family members said they plan to take legal action to return Duby to jail.
Sandra Eastman said she plans to will Rutland criminal court Monday to plead with prosecutors to alter Duby’s bail status while Lisa Eastman said she intends to post a petition at www.change.org to gain public support for revoking his bail.
Like her sister, Lisa Eastman, who lives in New York, said she was worried for the safety of her family members living in Vermont.
Holden didn’t know exactly what course of action the paternal side of Dezirae’s family will take, but she knows the goal.
“We want him back in jail now,” she said.
Duby was arrested in February after Dezirae was pronounced dead at Rutland Regional Medical Center from massive head injuries.
Duby, who was alone babysitting the toddler and his own newborn child on Feb. 19, told investigators he believed the child had fallen off a table and said he’d seen her fall from a toilet and a sink.
But physicians who treated Dezirae in Rutland and at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., told police they suspected the child was abused.
A doctor at RRMC told police that CT scans of the girl revealed skull fractures to both sides of her head suggesting “that someone held her head so tight, her skull cracked.”
An autopsy further concluded that Dezirae died as a result of blunt force trauma and the manner of her death was a homicide.
Duby, who has no prior criminal history, was placed on administrative leave at the Pittsford Fire Department where he worked as a volunteer for 11 years.
A town official has said in the past that the town is also reviewing Duby’s job as the town’s part-time animal control officer and deputy fire warden.
Duby is required to report once daily to the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department while he is released on bail.