TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains details of child abuse. If you suspect child abuse or neglect contact the DCFS 24/7 hotline: 855-323-3237. For more information, visit dcfs.utah.gov.
OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — A judge sentenced Miller Costello and Brenda Emile to life behind bars, after Angelina, their 3-year-old daughter, died because of severe injuries and malnourishment.
Angelina was found dead August 2017, when police were notified that she was unconscious, and not breathing. When they arrived, according to the police report, she had been deceased for several hours.
“In the most basic sense, she just deserved to be held in her parent’s arms, to be loved and protected,” The judge said. “[…]Instead, she was not only denied these things but she was also dehumanized and tortured by monsters. “
Angelina was so abused and malnourished that when the police found her, they compared her to a “Holocaust victim.” She had burns, bruising, contusions, open sores, and abrasions all over her hands, legs, face, head, and neck, the police report stated.
Over the course of five days, the court reviewed videos and photos, found on the couple’s phones, documenting abuse and torture since 2016. They also heard from several witnesses testifying of the abuse. Costello and Emile both pleaded guilty to aggravated murder.
The videos include footage showing her parents taunting her with food, and ultimately withholding it from her. The judge said the footage of her parents doing these actions, as she slowly starved to death was “appalling and heart-wrenching to watch. “
Included in the evidence, were reports that Angelina’s siblings were forced to participate in the abuse and were rewarded when they did. One of her siblings also said that they were told not to tell the police the truth, or it would happen to them.
Another testimony was that of the lead detective on the case, who said this case was “a career-ender.” She left law enforcement after this case and said she still suffers mental and emotional trauma from her involvement, and from the memories of its events.
After the evidence was reviewed, the judge sentenced the couple to life in prison without parole. He said that neither Costello nor Emile had shown remorse or taken responsibility for the ‘horrific’ crime.
“When protectors become tormentors when nurturers become abusers, it’s nearly impossible to grasp, much less explain.” The judge said, “It has been said that evil imaginations have no limits. And this case bears out that principle, most egregiously.”
He concluded with a message to Emile and Miller, saying that although they will spend the rest of their lives in prison, they get to wake up each day, make friends, and have positive experiences.
“Life itself is a gift, one that Angelina will never enjoy–because you murdered her.” The judge said, “So in a very real sense. This sentence is merciful because your lives have been spared.”