Hayden gets 15 years for killing his girlfriend in Brooklyn Park: He says it was accidental

Dymond Rene Hayden, the Minneapolis man who shot and killed Ashantai Nicole Finch in the basement of her sister’s Brooklyn Park home last April, apologized to the family during a sentencing hearing Feb. 21. He maintained the shooting was an accident.

“I would give my life to bring her back, quicker than a heartbeat,” Hayden said. “… My heart is forever torn knowing the pain I’ve caused you all.”

Hayden, age 20, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder Nov. 30 for killing Finch, his girlfriend, with a single gunshot to the chest April 10, 2012. Third-degree murder is an unintentional killing by someone “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

Hayden was on probation for carrying a pistol without a permit and had been convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct as a juvenile in 2005.

Finch and Hayden had been fighting in the days before the shooting. They were living with her sister and brother-in-law on the 8100 block of Hampshire Court North in Brooklyn Park.

Police arrested Hayden at the scene, which was approximately 1 mile east of a separate, triple homicide at a home daycare early April 9.

According to Hayden’s court-appointed lawyer, Robert Miller, Hayden has been consistently remorseful about the shooting and was in a “depraved state” at the time.

At his sentencing, Hayden called Finch an “angel of the Lord” and said he could never bring himself to do such a deed intentionally. He asked the family to try to forgive him someday.

His words seemed of little comfort to the relatives who attended. Some sobbed openly in the courtroom.

Finch’s sister Lashonda Finch had difficulty controlling her emotions while she gave a statement.

“I can’t talk to her anymore. I can’t hold her anymore. … I can’t see her smile anymore. … I’ve never felt so much pain,” she said before breaking down in tears at the podium.

The voice of Finch’s mother, Debra Finch, was strong and steady.

“Tai was my baby,” she said.

She described her daughter as having a sense of humor and a “big heart,” and she mournfully remembered a Mother’s Day poem Finch had titled “Mamma Don’t Cry.”

Debra Finch also had strong words for Hayden.

She accused him of killing Ashantai Finch because she was going to leave him.

“Dymond, they should’ve called you Demon,” Debra Finch said.

Tanesha Clayton, another sister of the victim, was with her sister the moment she died. Clayton wasn’t quite as harsh.

“I just pray that it is an accident,” she said. “I just don’t want to believe that someone would do such a thing to my sister.”

Finch’s stepfather, Robert Taylor-Murray, said he hoped that every time Hayden lost a loved one he would feel the same pain he has caused and remember he took someone’s life. But Taylor-Murray ended on a more generous note.

“Just for the record, I will pray that God put it in my heart to forgive you … because I’m not like you,” he said.

Prosecutor Cheri Ann Townsend told the judge it was difficult to add to the family’s statements. She said it was clear that no prison sentence would give the family enough time to get over the loss.

Judge Fred Karasov said he didn’t know how much Hayden believed the words coming out of his own mouth. Although he said ultimately only Hayden knew if it was an accident, Karasov said the history of abuse made him wonder about the truth.

As expected, Karasov sentenced Hayden to 15 years in prison with credit for 317 days served.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]