His grandson is dead. His daughter is in prison. And Tuesday in a Woodland courtroom Randy Green had a message for the man he says is responsible for both:
“They know what you’ve done,” Green told Frank Rees of the prisoners the Woodland man will soon join as Rees stared straight ahead toward the judge’s bench. “They can’t wait for you to get off the bus.”
Frank Tallieson Rees was sentenced Tuesday in Yolo Superior Court to six years in prison on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the February 2015 death of his infant son, 19-day-old Justice Rees, felony child endangerment and administering methamphetamine to the mother of his child, Samantha Green, now serving a 15-years-to-life sentence for murder in Justice’s death.
Tuesday’s tense sentencing hearing marked an emotional end to the bizarre, wrenching case that began nearly three years ago with the senseless death of a days-old infant in a chilly, wooded slough; and threw a cold light on the ravages of methamphetamine on families and a small, rural community.
“You can’t read any of the material in this case … and not fundamentally feel in your bones that Baby Justice deserved a lot more than he got in his 19 days,” Yolo Superior Court Judge Paul Richardson said from the bench, speaking of the “scourge that is methamphetamine in our county.”
“Any semblance of normal responsibility goes out the window,” Richardson continued. “Anyone here who loved Baby Justice needs to keep him in mind.”
But Green’s rage from the podium during his victim statement was wide-ranging, his targets many on Tuesday: Yolo County child welfare workers who drew up what Green called a “backroom deal” with Rees’ parents for a safety plan to bring an already meth-addicted Justice home from the hospital. Rees’ parents, themselves retired social workers with roughly 60 years’ experience between them, Green said, who failed to protect their grandchild from the dangers under their roof.
And, the prosecutors who pursued and won murder charges against his daughter, but offered a deal to the drug dealer-turned-fiancé who injected her with syringes full of meth mixed with acetone in the days before her fateful journey into the slough.
“One gets a slap on the wrist. Two get no accountability whatsoever. The DA focused on one person only: my daughter. They had their killer,” Green said in his remarks before Yolo Superior Court Judge Paul Richardson. “Samantha Green is not a murderer.”
Anger wasn’t reserved for the Green family. Rees’ older sister, Ruth Rees banged the courtroom podium in disgust, gathered herself, then declared her brother beyond saving, calling for the maximum nine-year prison term.
“This is what he does. I have no hope for him anymore,” Ruth Rees, one of Frank Rees’ three sisters, said. “My sisters and I think he should get the maximum sentence.”
Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens defended the six-year sentence as a “just result,” saying to attempt to pursue a heavier charge against Rees was “not legally sustainable.” Couzens said prosecutors also considered charging others in Justice’s death but decided that the charges weren’t justified.
“We charged the most serious charges justified by the law and the facts,” Couzens said in remarks to the bench. “We picked the people who were responsible and charged them with the crimes.”
Rees defense attorney Rod Beede defiantly defended his client as the only person who took responsibility in “this horrid, sordid, tragic case,” and called on Yolo authorities to flag what he called an “absolute, express threat” from Randy Green during Green’s fiery remarks.
“Samantha Green never took responsibility for dragging her child out into the marsh on a 52-degree day in 48-degree water,” Beede said. “She was the one who dragged him into the wilderness and left him him to die under a tree.” Rees, Beede said, “has feelings.”
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“This was not going to be an easy case for the prosecution,” Judge Richardson said later from the bench of the plea. “Both sides found an area where there was going to be common ground.”
Samantha Green emerged hysterical from Ridge Cut Slough near Knights Landing the afternoon after descending into the woods, her newborn Justice Rees in tow, in an ill-fated, drug-addled and ultimately fatal search for Justice’s father, who had left Woodland and Green to meet a lover in Knights Landing. Baby Justice wasn’t with her. She frantically told a neighbor her child was missing. Searchers later found the baby’s body under a tree in the slough. Justice died of exposure, medical examiners ruled.
A Yolo County jury in 2016 would decide Samantha Green caused her baby’s death and convicted her of second-degree murder.
Richardson said in his lengthy remarks that he hoped the sentence would be “a basis for renewal.”
“My hope is that everyone will take stock of what happened and try to do better with their lives. That means everyone,” he said. “It’s a tragedy of the first order for everyone.”