Trial begins for mother charged in son's death

Deanna De Jesus charged in death of 9-year-old son after Deerfield Beach standoff


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The trial of a woman who survived a Deerfield Beach standoff, during which, police say, her husband shot and killed a man, stabbed her and two of her sons and then killed himself, began on Tuesday morning.

Deanna De Jesus, 38, is charged with aggravated manslaughter and child neglect in connection with the Feb. 9 incident at the Highland Woods RV Park.

Dejesus broke into tears as prosecutors described in graphic detail how her autistic son, Jeshiah, 9, was "butchered" by William De Jesus, her husband.

"Two stab wounds to the chest," prosecutor Greg Rossman said during opening statements.

The state contends if Deanna Dejesus had done more to protect her son, he might still be alive.

"The law says a parent has an obligation to provide certain things to their children. Well, safety is first," Rossman said.

The Broward Sheriff's Office said Deanna De Jesus did nothing during the Feb. 9 standoff to stop her husband -- who investigators said had already gunned down Ovila Plante, 76, at his RV -- when he stabbed Jeshia, their 9-year-old son and Samson, their 7-year-old son. Investigators said Deanna De Jesus only protested when her husband stabbed her, before he killed himself. Investigators said William De Jesus brought his family to South Florida from their home in Port Orange to buy drugs that day.

BSO said that for several hours after she realized Samson De Jesus was still alive, Deanna De Jesus failed to call for help, although SWAT team members were surrounding the RV.

Five hours after the incident began, the SWAT team went into the RV and found that William De Jesus and the couple's 9-year-old son were dead, and Deanna De Jesus and the 7-year-old son were critically wounded, BSO said.

The star witness in the case is her other son, Samson, 7, who survived his father's attempt to kill him. Jurors will hear his statement to police on Thursday, in which, prosecutors said, he describes how his mother made no effort to protect them from their father.

"When daddy was stabbing your brother, what did your mommy do? 'Nothing.' What did your mommy say? 'Nothing,'" Rossman said, referring to the conversation between the detective and the child.

Deanna De Jesus lost custody of Samson in February.

Michelle Rivera, William De Jesus' ex-wife, testified on Tuesday, saying Deanna De Jesus seemed emotionally detached at the hospital after the attack.

"Deanna said, 'No, no, it's okay. He didn't suffer you guys because he did it really fast," said Rivera.

The woman who lived in the RV also took the stand. She said, at one point, Deanna De Jesus held the knife to her throat before she managed to escape.

But the defense attorney said the mother was a nothing more than victim in the ordeal. She too was cut multiple times.

"This was one man's personal Armageddon," said defense attorney Terrence Moons.

Moons said Dejesus was defenseless against her husband, who was armed, and physically incapable of helping her children after William De Jesus turned the knife on her.

"Because one knife punctured her lung and as her lung filled up with fluid, she was paralyzed. She could not get up... She could barely muster up enough strength to say stop," said Moons.