Detroit — Gabby Barrett lived in terror at home, beaten and drugged, "sentenced to an empty room" with a black garbage bag to keep herself warm if she wet her bed, a judge said before sending her mother's boyfriend to prison for his "natural life" in the 4-year-old's death.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans described Brad Fields as a “terrible king” who ruled Gabby's Sumpter Township home through violence.

“Her only escape was school, which she loved,” Evans said. “But by night she was tortured and humiliated” by a man who threatened to drown the girl in his urine if her own urination issues continued.

The abuse was so ingrained that when she was away from her family, she longed to be “connected to something” during those hours away from home," an assistant prosecutor said.

The Sumpter Township man, the boyfriend of Gabby's mother, earlier had been convicted in Gabby's death on New Year’s Day

Barring a successful appeal, it means Fields, 29, will spend his life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

The trial for Gabby's mother, Candice Diaz, 25, is scheduled to begin in March before Evans. Diaz faces the same charges, except for the second first-degree child abuse charge and the second-degree child abuse charge, which are conspiracy charges in her case. 

Over the holiday break, Evans said, Gabby was “beaten and drugged.” She developed “dental decay,” with all of her teeth rotted at age 4.

Abuse was so common that the interruption of the "Call of Duty" video game that Fields liked to play meant punishment was certain, Evans said.

When Gabby died, vomit was found in her lungs and she'd suffered “immersion burns” from being placed under scalding hot water, the judge said. And when Fields went to hide the evidence of what he’d done, "he peeled burned skin off her body and placed it in a drain,” Evans said.

Gabby died of septic shock, an infection that spread to her organs.

'That beautiful soul'

Stephanie Barrett, Gabby's aunt, choked up as she began her victim impact statement.

“Every day we live in pain,” Barrett said, “wondering why she was murdered.”

Barrett described her niece as “such a happy child.”

“That beautiful soul ... we don’t get to see it anymore because of them,” Barrett said, referring to Fields and Diaz.

More than a dozen family members accompanied Barrett in the courtroom. The family brought a hardcover picture book they'd created of “all the times when she was happy.”

School, said Bruce Elsey, an assistant prosecutor, “was her escape from reality.” Gabby liked to hug her fellow pupils. A teacher described her at trial as being unusually friendly, even for a young child. She wanted to be “connected to something,” Elsey said.

Gabby had been scalded, and the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner's Office said the abuse of the little girl was "the worst" his office had ever seen.

According to an autopsy, Gabby was asphyxiated, had burns on her feet and arms, and suffered from other injuries, including cuts and bruises on her left cheek. The child's hair was matted and filled with lice.

Medical and dental neglect contributed to her death, the autopsy found.

Gabby's death, and the disappearance of Fields and Diaz, led to a manhunt that ended  a week later in Georgia. 

When sentencing him, Evans compared the family home to the castle in "Beauty and the Beast," with one important difference.

“Even in "Beauty and the Beast," the beast had a good heart,” Evans said. “Brad, you’re a murderer.”

Read or Share this story: