The mother of a seven-week-old baby who was gruesomely murdered by her father has cried tears of joy after her ex-partner was killed in a fiery crash.
Rick Cataldo, 35, died after crashing a car into a utility pole in Thornlands, east Brisbane, at about 10:40pm on May 15.
Cataldo pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2017 for the May 2012 death of his daughter Lily Rain after she brutally beat the seven-week-old and crushed her skull.
He was sentenced to eight years in prison but only served 3 years and 9 months for manslaughter as he had already spent nearly four years in prison awaiting trial.
Lily’s mother, Michelle Leask, said she was happy when she found out her ex-partner had passed away.
Michelle Leask (pictured) said she cried with “absolute happiness” after finding out her former partner, Rick Cataldo, who killed their seven-week-old baby, had been killed in a car crash
“I cried with absolute happiness,” Leask recalled The courier mail.
“I received the text while sitting at my desk at work and had dropped my phone in shock as I read and reread what I had just received.
“I was shaking and in disbelief that he was finally out of our lives, forever.”
Cataldo faced Redcliffe Magistrates Court just over a month before his death on April 4 for driving an unregistered vehicle, driving an uninsured vehicle and using number plates 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 with Cataldo, said her former partner would take her to court to change the domestic violence warrant she filed against him and try to get visitors to see their son.
She added that Cataldo allegedly tried to find out where they live and harassed their son from the moment he turned 18.
Although she was not present when her daughter suffered the horrific injuries that led to her death, Leask Catadalo had seen the two-month-old baby beaten several times and not given her the care she needed to stay alive.
Leask saw her little daughter had become harder to feed and cried more in the days leading up to her death.
She tried to call an ambulance, but Catadalo urged her not to in case cannabis plants were found in his possession.
She said afterwards that she shouldn’t have stopped at anything to give her baby the treatment she needed.
Rick Cataldo, 35, (pictured) pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2017 after his two-month-old daughter died of injuries sustained after Cataldo punched her
Cataldo died after crashing a car into a utility pole in Thornlands, east Brisbane, on May 15 (pictured)
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 worsened before she died on May 8, 2012.
At the hospital, Cataldo lied to police about how his daughter sustained the injuries he inflicted on her.
He told them “I dropped Lily and she hit her head,” and urged Leask to tell hospital staff that their daughter’s bruises were because “you (Leask) got her caught in the seatbelt when she got out of the car and accidentally dropped your hair’ .
The young mother, who lives in 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 hospital .
“It’s a life sentence of guilt I’ll never forgive myself, I hate myself for it every day, I know I let her down,” Leask said.
Leask received a five-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter and agreeing to carry a telegram while cooperating with police to convict Cataldo.
The police visited Leask at her mother’s house and devised a plan to catch Cataldo in the days leading up to their daughter’s death.
Leask had to “casually” ask questions about why Cataldo wouldn’t let her take Lily to the hospital when she cried a lot and why he searched the process of an autopsy on Google.
She said that Cataldo was drunk and answered the questions truthfully, which inevitably led to his conviction.
A post-mortem revealed that Lily had six fractures to her skull on both sides and the back of her hearing, an injury to her brainstem and spinal cord.
Her injuries approached the degree of force found in “baby shake” cases, while her rib fractures and a twisted arm were likely caused by “crushing” or “pressure to the chest.”
At a court hearing, Leask was described by a judge as “deeply remorseful” for her daughter’s death.
Leask said she is guilty for life for not giving Lily the treatment she needed. The young mother received 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 sadness, anger, frustration and happiness as she reflects on the past 15 years.
“Grief for what was taken from me and I did everything to get it back,” she told The Courier Mail.
“Sadness that I don’t have 11-year-old Lily here with me who is about to start high school next year.
“Anger that the situation I was in with Rick affected my future… glad I got out when I did, because with how violent Rick was at the end of our relationship, I know I could have possibly been through him.” being killed. ‘