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‘Dehumanized and tortured by monsters’: Judge berates parents for horrific killing of toddler during sentencing hearing

Brenda Emile and Eric Miller Costello (Weber County Sheriff's Office)

Brenda Emile and Eric Miller Costello (Weber County Sheriff’s Office)

A judge in Utah did not hold back during the sentencing hearing for the parents of a 3-year-old girl who was tortured and starved to death, repeatedly referring to 28-year-old Brena Emile and 30-year-old Miller Eric Costello as “monsters” during the emotional proceeding. Second District Judge Michael DiReda on Friday handed down sentences of life without the possibility of parole to both Emile and Costello for their roles in the horrific 2017 death of young Angelina Costello, video reviewed by Law&Crime shows.

“This court has felt the tremendous weight of this case and has fought back tears of its own when it has reviewed and considered the atrocious evidence in this case,” Judge DiReda said during Friday’s hearing. “Her injuries were too numerous to count. Her life was a life of perpetual pain.”

Emile and Costello last year pleaded guilty to one count each of first-degree felony aggravated murder in their daughter’s death, following years of beatings, burns, and various other means of physical and emotional abuse, much of which the couple recorded on their cellphones. The plea agreement ensured that the couple would avoid the death penalty for the actions, which were so inhumane that one law enforcement officer testified that little Angelina “looked like a Holocaust victim.”

“Videos showing her parents taunting her with food and ultimately withholding it from her as she slowly starved to death were appalling and heart-wrenching to watch,” Judge DiReda continued.“When protectors become tormentors, when nurturers become abusers, it’s nearly impossible to grasp, much less explain. It has been said that evil imaginations have no limits. And this case bears out that principle, most egregiously.”

Judge DiReda also noted that the detective charged with leading the investigation into Angelina’s death left law enforcement after the case, noting that she “still suffers mental and emotional trauma as a result of her involvement in this case and the memories of its events.”

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According to a report from the Standard-Examiner, DiReda also quoted directly from Angelina’s autopsy report, saying that the toddler suffered “blunt force trauma injuries to her head, torso, and extremities,” as well as internal bleeding, organ damage, “traumatic chipping of teeth,” and cigarette burns “all over her little body.”

“She just deserved to be held in her parents’ arms, to be loved and protected,” he reportedly said. “Instead she was dehumanized and tortured by monsters.”

The judge also reportedly referenced a letter penned by the adoptive mother of Angelina’s older brother, who was 4 years old at the time of her death.

According to the letter, Emile and Costello ordered the older boy “to strike Angelina” and praised him when he complied. Judge DiReda said such actions were “uniquely cruel and psychologically devastating to Angelina.”

“The court has never experienced this level of depravity, this level of cruelty and this level of evil in any of the cases it’s handled previously,” DiReda said, according to KSL Newsradio. “The court cannot capture the moral significance of these actions and these defendants by characterizing them as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ – nothing other than the concept of evil does justice when it comes to what was done to this little innocent child.”

(image via Weber County Sheriff’s Office)

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.