The mother of a seven-week-old baby who was horrifically killed by her father has cried tears of joy after her former partner died in a fiery crash.
Rick Cataldo, 35, died after crashing a car into an electrical pole at about 10:40pm on May 15 in Thornlands, Brisbane’s east.
Cataldo pled guilty to manslaughter in 2017 for the May 2012 death of his daughter Lily Rain after brutally bashing the seven-week-old and crushing her skull.
He was sentenced to eight years’ jail but only served 3 years and 9 months for manslaughter because he had already spent almost four years in jail while awaiting trial.
Lily’s mother, Michelle Leask said she was happy when she found out her former partner had died.
Michelle Leask (pictured) said she cried with ‘absolute happiness’ after she found out her former partner, Rick Cataldo, who had killed their seven-week old baby had died in a car accident
‘I cried with absolute happiness,’ Leask told The Courier Mail.
‘I received the text message while I was sitting at my desk at work and had dropped my phone in complete shock when I read and re-read what I had just received.
‘I was shaking and in disbelief that he was finally out of our life, forever.’
Cataldo faced Redcliffe Magistrates Court a little more than a month before his death on April 4 for driving an unregistered vehicle, driving an uninsured vehicle and using plates that were stolen, lost or damaged in November 2022.
After representing himself in court, Cataldo was fined $1,200 and given 28 days to pay.
Leask, who shares a 13-year-old son to Cataldo, said her former partner was going to take her to court to vary the domestic violence order she has against him and try to gain visitation to see their son.
She added Cataldo would have tried to find out where they live and would have harassed their son the moment he turned 18.
Although she wasn’t present when her daughter suffered the horrific injuries that led to her death, Leask had seen Catadalo strike the two-month old numerous times and failed to give her the care she needed to stay alive.
Leask noticed her baby girl had become harder to feed and would cry more in the days leading up to her death.
She attempted to call an ambulance but Catadalo urged her not to in case cannabis plants in his possession were found.
She said in hindsight she should have not stopped at anything to get her baby the treatment she needed.
Rick Cataldo, 35, (pictured) plead guilty to manslaughter in 2017 after his two-month-old daughter died from injuries from injuries sustained after Cataldo struck her
Cataldo died after crashing a car into an electrical pole on May 15 in Thornlands, Brisbane’s east (pictured)
Upon finding her daughter pale and unresponsive, Leask took her daughter to Brisbane’s Redcliffe Hospital where she died despite desperate attempts to revive her.
Lily’s condition deteriorated before she died on May 8, 2012.
While at the hospital, Cataldo lied to police about how his daughter received the injuries he had inflicted upon her.
He told them ‘I dropped Lily and she hit her head’, and urged Leask to tell hospital staff that their daughter’s bruises came from ‘you (Leask) getting her tangled up in the seatbelt getting out of the car and you accidentally dropping her’.
The young mum, who lives at The Gap with her son and a two-year-old daughter to her new fiancé, said her diagnosis of autism and the mental and physical abuse she received from Cataldo contributed to her not taking Lily to the hospital.
‘It’s a life sentence of guilt that I’ll never forgive myself for, I hate myself every day for it, I know I failed her,’ Leask said.
Leask was given a five-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter and agreeing to wear a wire while working with police to convict Cataldo.
Police visited Leask at her mother’s house and hatched a plan to catch Cataldo talking about the days leading up to their daughter’s death.
Leask had to ‘casually’ ask questions about why Cataldo did not allow her to take Lily to the hospital when she was crying a lot and why he was searching the process of an autopsy on Google.
She said Cataldo was drunk and answered the questions truthfully which inevitably led to his conviction.
A post-mortem revealed Lily had six fractures to her skull on both sides and the back of her heard, an injury to her brain stem and spinal cord.
Her injuries almost reached the degree of force found in ‘baby shaking’ cases while her rib fractures and a twisted arm was likely caused by ‘crushing’ or ‘compression to the chest’.
During a court hearing, Leask was described by a judge as ‘profoundly remorseful’ for her daughter’s death.
Leask said she lives with a life sentence of guilt for not getting Lily the treatment she needed. The young mum was given a five-year suspended sentence for manslaughter after agreeing to wear a wire and help police convict Cataldo (pictured, Leask with daughter Lily)
Leask said she feels grief, anger, frustration and happiness when she reflects on the last 15 years.
‘Grief on what got taken from me and I worked with everything in my power to get back,’ she told The Courier Mail.
‘Grief that I don’t have an 11-year-old Lily here with me about to start high school next year.
‘Anger that the situation I was in with Rick affected my future… happy that I got out when I did, because with how violent Rick was at the end of our relationship, I know I could’ve possibly been killed by him.’
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