'You failed as a mother': Mum of 2yo beaten to death sentenced

Tyson Brown was charged with murder after the 2021 death of 2-year-old Arapera Fia.
Tyson Brown was charged with murder after the 2021 death of 2-year-old Arapera Fia.
A young mother who didn’t properly protect her two-year-old daughter from her abusive boyfriend, resulting in the toddler’s beating death, hung her head in a courtroom dock today with her face twisted into a grimace for over an hour and a half as she was sentenced to home detention.

Nikitalove Brampton Tekotia, 24, pleaded guilty last March to the manslaughter of Arapera Fia, who was beaten to death at their Weymouth, South Auckland home during the city’s strict 2021 Covid-19 lockdown.

As a result of the guilty plea, Tekotia testified against boyfriend Tyson Brown at his murder trial instead of joining him in the High Court at Auckland dock. Brown was found guilty and sentenced last year to life with a minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years.

But her aid to prosecutors should be tempered, the Crown said today, by her “self-serving” testimony during three days in the witness box and her protracted but ultimately failed effort to rescind her guilty plea after the trial.

“Prison is the only appropriate sentence,” prosecutor Luke Radich argued.

Justice David Johnstone disagreed, noting that her testimony and cross-examination at Brown’s trial - in which his lawyer tried to convince the jury she inflicted the fatal beating - would have been especially difficult as her “naivety and loyalty to your child’s manipulative killer [was] exposed”.

“I consider your experience in court as a witness to have amounted to a form of punishment,” he said.

He ordered a two-year sentence, which he then converted to 12 months’ home detention.

Authorities rushed Arapera to Starship Hospital on the evening of October 31, 2021, after finding her unresponsive in her home. She was pronounced dead hours later. She had suffered severe head injuries, a compression fracture to her spine and bruising over much of her body.

Nikitalove Tekotia appears in the High Court at Auckland to be sentenced for the manslaughter of...
Nikitalove Tekotia appears in the High Court at Auckland to be sentenced for the manslaughter of her 2-year-old daughter, Arapera Fia, who she failed to protect from abuse. Photo / Michael Craig
Tekotia and Brown had been in an on-again-off-again relationship and were stuck somewhat reluctantly in the same house together after Brown’s Covid-19 diagnosis that day. Tekotia was on the phone with Healthline, answering questions for about 30 minutes as her daughter was fatally beaten by Brown in another room, the judge noted today.

A witness who lived in a sleepout on the same property testified he could hear banging, the child crying and Brown yelling, “Stop crying!” and, “Get the f*** up.”

“You did not know Mr Brown was going to murder Arapera,” the judge said, adding that it might be said she was trying to look after her daughter by cooperating with health officials and taking the call.

But by that point, she should have already realised her daughter was in danger of abuse, the judge said, pointing to a haunting TikTok video which showed the defendant “engaged with the camera” while her daughter stood in the background with visible facial bruising.

Tyson Brown appears in the High Court at Auckland at the start of his murder trial. He was found...
Tyson Brown appears in the High Court at Auckland at the start of his murder trial. He was found guilty of having fatally beaten 2-year-old Arapera Fia in her Weymouth, South Auckland home. Photo / Jason Oxenham
“By the end of the month, it is clear you were starting to overlook some of your responsibilities towards Arapera,” the judge said. “You became inattentive to Arapera and self-absorbed.”

Google searches by both Brown and Tekotia in the hours leading up to paramedics’ arrival included “how to wake up a baby after being knocked out” and “how to wake up a baby after being choked”.

The judge said he inferred from the evidence that Tekotia didn’t at that point “know or even suspect” the seriousness of her daughter’s injuries.

Justice Johnstone said he rejected the Crown’s characterisation of her actions that day as “cruel”. At worst, he said, they amounted to “gross negligence”.

The judge agreed with the Crown, however, that Tekotia should receive a substantially reduced discount for remorse given her efforts to rescind her guilty plea, which resulted in multiple postponements of her sentencing.

Genuine remorse depends on the acceptance of responsibility, Radich said, arguing that without such a concession it amounts to “sadness, not remorse”. He acknowledged her testimony did help with Brown’s conviction, but he said she also at times took “just plainly unreasonable positions” that ultimately made the case more difficult for the Crown to prove.

Nikitalove Tekotia weeps in the High Court at Auckland as she is sentenced for the manslaughter...
Nikitalove Tekotia weeps in the High Court at Auckland as she is sentenced for the manslaughter of her two-year-old daughter, Arapera Fia. Photo / Michael Craig
Defence lawyer Emma Priest, however, characterised her client’s testimony differently.

“A reluctant witness for the Crown is a valuable one,” she said, explaining that it likely added to her credibility in the end.

Priest said home detention was the only sentence that could address Tekotia’s fragile mental state and “break the inter-generational cycle of violence”. It would allow her to continue developing a strong bond with her new daughter, who is now 14 months old, she said, arguing that she is already serving a life sentence of knowing she failed her first daughter.

Tekotia inquired about sending Brown to his mother’s house, leaving with Arapera or sending Arapera to stay with relatives but was barred by health officials due to Brown’s Covid diagnosis, Priest said. The judge agreed, describing her “limited ability to remove” the child from the home as “very significant”.

Tekotia hugged herself and sobbed as the judge announced his decision not to sentence her to prison, just as she sobbed at the outset of the hearing when Arapera’s father gave an emotional victim impact statement.

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to protect her,” Malcolm Fia said, recalling concerns he had for his daughter’s safety but also a feeling of helplessness after Tekotia trespassed him and warned she would cut off access to his daughter if he intervened.

“Still to this day I feel like I should have done more. Maybe things would be different. ...For this reason I beat myself up.”

He described going to his daughter’s grave every day for the first month after she died, even sleeping next to it as he tried in vain to process his grief and rage.

Two-year-old Arapera Fia was beaten to death in October 2021 at her Weymouth, South Auckland home.

He described the intense anger he felt towards Brown for killing his child, but also disappointment in Tekotia for letting him and Arapera down.

“The one person I thought I could rely on to protect our daughter was Nikita, Arapera’s mother,” he said. “Nikita, you failed as a mother to protect our daughter. You put her in harm’s way.

“You put your relationship first and not her.”

 

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