The brothers convicted of murdering three-year-old Nia Glassie have been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17-and-half years.

Justice Judith Potter had to ask a packed public gallery to quieten down as she read out the sentences for Wiremu Curtis, 19, and Michael Curtis, 22, in the High Court at Rotorua today.

An auntie of Nia, Paki Rapana, yelled "Rot in hell you baby-killers, bastards" as she left the courtroom.

Nia's mother, 35-year-old Lisa Kuka, who was last year found guilty on two manslaughter charges was sentenced to nine years imprisonment.


"She chose to ignore the risk to which her three-year-old daughter was exposed to," Justice Potter said.

"It was her decision to leave Nia and her other two children in the care of her 17-year-old partner Wiremu Curtis and the other occupants of 13D Frank Street.

"Lisa Kuka was the only person Nia could look to for care and she failed her, utterley."

Nia died on August 3, 2007 after being kicked in the head by Wiremu and Michael Curtis. She was subjected to months of abuse which included being put in a dryer, hung on a clothes line and spun around, used as a wrestling doll and left lying in a coma for 36 hours without medical attention.

The brothers were found guilty of Nia's murder after a four-week trial in the High Court at Rotorua in November. They had denied the murder charge but admitted assault charges.

Kuka was found guilty on two manslaughter charges relating to a lack of protection and failure to seek medical help for her critically-injured daughter.

Nia's cousin Michael Pearson, 20, and Michael Curtis' partner Oriwa Kemp, 18, were found not guilty of manslaughter in relation to the death but were found guilty on various other ill-treatment charges.

Kemp was today sentenced to three years, four months imprisonment for all of the charges. Pearson was sentenced to three years.


The defendents showed no reaction as Justice Potter read out their sentences.

"This is extremely cruel conduct against a particularly vulnerable victim," she said.

"The case has sent waves of shock, horror and disbelief through the community as rightly it should," Justice Potter said.

"The case has attracted detailed publicity."

She said the only assistance for the abuse Nia recieved was from her two sisters, aged eight and 10 at the time, but they "themselves were highly vulnerable and highly defenceless... they were powerless."

Justice Potter said the sisters would suffer long-term psychological effects from witnessing Nia's abuse and being victims themselves.

Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch had sought minimum life sentences of between 17 and 18 years for Michael and Wiremu Curtis, a minimum sentence of 10 years for Kuka, and sentences of between two and four years for Pearson and Kemp.

He asked the judge to take into account that some of the offending required forethought - such as the dryer incident where there was evidence the men found it amusing - rather than a distressed parent lashing out in abuse in response to a child's behaviour.

Michael Curtis' lawyer, Jonathan Temm, asked the judge to consider the fact his client "was the product of a dysfunctional and violent upbringing".

His family had strong gang connections and he did not start formal schooling until the age of 12 and was not there long. He had also suffered a head injury as a child.

Curtis was remorseful but did not take responsibility for the death and blamed his brother, Mr Temm said. The pair were kept well apart in court with two Corrections staff between them.

Wiremu Curtis' lawyer Craig Horsley said his client was reeling from the fact he had been found guilty but he was "regretful about the things that unfolded for all concerned".

Defence for Ms Kuka, Panama Le'Au'Anae, said the only abuse she admitted to knowing about was the wrestling moves.

But Justice Potter interrupted and said Kuka had acknowledged to police she knew about abuse but was in love with Wiremu Curtis so had turned a blind eye.

Outside the court, Rotorua leader Merepeka Raukawa-Tate said: "Maori women in particular need to look at who they are spending their days with, who they are sleeping with. Some lead crap lives, are crap parents and are with crap partners."