Leonard Orta Jr. Gets 18 Years in Prison for Starving 5-Year-Old Niece to Death

A Phoenix man who let his 5-year-old niece starve to death in his apartment -- then did nothing as her body was decomposing in the apartment -- will be going to prison.

Leonard Orta Jr., 49, was sentenced to 18 years in prison, as part of a plea agreement, in which Orta pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

See also:
-Criminal Complaint Filed Against Uncle of 5-Year-Old Girl Found Decomposing in Apartment

His niece, 5-year-old Kaiya Kapahu, suffered from Rett Syndrome -- which prevented her from speaking or walking -- was sent by her family to Phoenix from Hawaii to live with relatives, so she could receive treatment she couldn't get in Hawaii.

The girl lived with Orta and her grandfather at the apartment, starting in July 2009.

Police believed that in January 2010, Orta stopped giving the girl her medications, and eventually stopped feeding her after the grandfather himself was having medical issues, and was hospitalized. According to a previously obtained police report, the girl died after 10 days.

While the girl's grandfather was at home recovering, he had asked Orta where the girl was. Orta insisted the girl had been hospitalized, but the grandfather continued to get suspicious.

Eventually, the grandfather could smell an odor coming from the girl's room -- which ended up being the smell of the girl's decomposing body -- and he demanded he be let in the room.

Orta denied him access, and the grandfather called police. Sure enough, the girl's body was in there. Police estimated the girl had been dead in the room for about a month.

Orta was initially charged with first-degree murder -- and other crimes -- but he ended up pleading guilty to a second-degree murder charge.

James King contributed to this post.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley