The man and woman who pleaded guilty to killing Taupo 3-year-old Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri have been sentenced to 17 years each at the High Court in Rotorua.
Tania Shailer, 26, and David William Haerewa, 43, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and ill treating a child. They had originally been charged with murder.
Judge Sarah Katz said this was the highest sentence imposed in New Zealand for manslaughter against a child.
Moko was assaulted over a two-month period in Taupo last year after his mother, Nicola Dally-Paki, left him with a couple while she was in Auckland looking after another child in Starship hospital.
Crown Prosecutor Amanda Gordon had asked for the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for Shailer. She said the totality of the offending made it one of the worst cases of manslaughter imaginable.
Justice Katz said that while the court accepted there was a range of reasons Tania Shailer and David Haerewa struggled to cope with their circumstances, other families in similar situations did not brutalise and kill the children in their care.
While the Crown identified Shailer as having a higher level of culpability, the judge said the differences in culpability were minor as both assaulted Moko continuously and encouraged each other as the offending escalated. The pair embarked on a "joint campaign" of violence against a defenceless and extremely vulnerable child.
"You both assaulted Moko continuously and encouraged each other as the offending escalated. You embarked on a joint campaign of violence against a defenceless and extremely vulnerable child.
"The offending was extremely cruel and callous, with neither of you seeking medical help for Moko while he lay dying."
She said pre-sentence reports indicated Haerewa had very little remorse, if any, and Shailer had shown little insight into her offending.
"[Haerewa] tried to shift the blame onto Moko and his mother, as well as social services ... It has been concluded [Shailer] is either in denial of the gravity of her offending or does not have much insight into her offending."
When delivering the sentence, Justice Katz said to the pair that Moko "died at your hands in the most brutal way and your sentence must reflect that".
She said had it not been for the guilty pleas entered by the pair, affording them a discount on their sentence, they would have faced a sentence of life imprisonment.
Moko's family cried as the judge went over the gruelling details of the toddler's death. Her mother sobbed as the Judge described Haerewa rubbing faeces into Moko's face. She then left the courtroom.
Moko's father, Jordon Tawa Rangitoheriri, yelled to the crowd outside the courthouse as he was leaving. "At the end of the day justice will prevail," he said.
After the sentencing, police again passed on their condolences to Moko's family and have acknowledged the officers who worked on the investigation into the toddler's death.
"Any case involving a young and vulnerable victim like Moko is extremely difficult for all involved, and I would like to commend the officers involved for their diligence and professionalism," Detective Inspector Lewis Warner said.
Moko's uncle gave a short statement outside court,saying it had been a "very, very sad" time for the family since the ordeal started 10 months ago.
"We just want to thank everybody, each and every one of you that were here today that were doing the marches for us. All for my nephew, for our family, Moko."
Shailer and Haerewa tortured Moko by kicking him, stomping on him and slapping him. They rubbed his own faeces in his face. He was eventually beaten to the point where he suffered facial swelling, internal bleeding, septic shock from his leaking bowel and swelling of the brain.
Moko was left for four days suffering those injuries before the couple rang 111, saying he had fallen off a wood pile.
In her victim impact statement, Ms Dally-Paki said she was angry and upset that she couldn't see her boy through to his fourth birthday.
She said that she did not know Haerewa well, but now knew he and Shailer were monsters who subjected her child to hell. She told the court that she believed they subjected their own children to hell as well, and that her heart broke for them.
Haerewa admitted to police that he continually assaulted Moko, especially during the four days prior to his death.
The main injuries that caused the toddler's death were inflicted by Shailer, who forcefully stomped on his abdomen and stomach. The summary states it is unclear when she did this, but evidence suggests it was on August 6.
By August 9 Moko could barely walk, had major swelling to the face, kept falling to the ground and was defecating and vomiting frequently.
Moko suffered lacerations and haemorrhaging deep within his abdomen and, coupled with older bruising and damage, a rupture to his bowel.
On August 10 Shailer phoned 111 saying Moko had fallen from a wood pile the day before, sustaining severe bruising. She told the operator that he had been fine earlier in the day but was now "really cold, unconscious, not breathing properly and that his stomach was really hard".
Upon arriving at Shailer and Haerewa's address and seeing the visual injuries and condition of Moko, paramedic staff rushed him straight to the emergency department at Taupo Hospital. By 10pm that evening Moko's ordeal had ended - he was pronounced dead.
Ms Dally-Paki said she first met the then-16-year-old Shailer at a Kohanga Reo. "Tania was a caregiver. I didn't know about them being mentally unstable."
She said Shailer was in regular contact until two weeks before Moko's death.
"Her phone was off and I couldn't call to talk to him. Those are signs that I should've picked up on."
She still hasn't read the full report on the trauma her son endured. Her daughter has told her about her efforts to try and help Moko.
"She said he was locked in the bathroom for two weeks, and that she tried to use toilet paper to wipe his bleeding eyes. She tried everything to save him. She was told to tell the police that she had hurt Moko, that's why my daughter put her hand up and said she'd done it."
Ms Dally-Paki's daughter was not spared from the attacks.
"She said [Shailer] used to punch [her] in the face when she'd smile, and drag her by the hair to get to school."
"They brainwashed her, they psychologically screwed her, and made her partake in the violence."
Ms Dally-Paki said she "absolutely" felt let down by Child, Youth and Family after Shailer told the agency that she had six children in her care.
"They could've helped my son, he'd still be alive. They knew something was up, why didn't they help? They had more knowledge than I did."
She believes Shailer and Haerewa should've been charged with "more than manslaughter".
Child, Youth and Family said they had "every sympathy" for Ms Dally-Paki, but they were not made aware of any "critical concerns" about Moko.
"It is important to note that Child, Youth and Family became involved days before Moko was killed because Tania Shailer ... had reported she was concerned that Moko and his siblings would not be safe with their mother, who was planning to collect them from Tania's care.
"As we have said, had there been any concerns from the family about Moko's care by Tania and David Haerewa, Child, Youth and Family would have visited the home promptly to check on him."
Child, Youth and Family said they did not know that Haerewa was living with Shailer.