GOLDEN — Keith Nick Ruiz was sentenced to 36 years in prison in Jefferson County Court on Tuesday for killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.
Dolci Gryshayeva died Sept. 9, 2011, after Ruiz slammed her to the floor of the Lakewood apartment he shared with Dolci's mother. Ruiz pleaded guilty last October and faced 25 to 40 years in prison.
Before handing down the sentence, District Judge Christopher Zenisek listened to pleas for leniency from his family members, and Ruiz himself, who said he hoped to "live in such a way that those who know me will come to know God ..."
His father-in-law, Manuel Garza — Ruiz got married in jail — said faith has changed Ruiz. "I believe Keith will be a man that makes an impact ... in the kingdom of God."
But Zenisek also heard that Ruiz hurt Dolci before, and he heard Ruiz, in taped jail conversations, say he was "wrongfully prosecuted."
Members of Dolci's large extended family cried as they described a bubbly brown-eyed little girl nicknamed "Sweets" who spent the last day of her life cuddling on the couch with her mom watching "Spongebob Squarepants."
Dolci's mother, Anastasia Gryshayeva, said, "The reality of Dolci being gone paralyzes me."
And she read from a letter she wrote to the child who received Dolci's donated heart: "You carry a heart of gold," she wrote.
Ruiz told investigators that on Sept. 7, 2011, Gryshayeva left to visit a friend in the hospital and Dolci wouldn't stop crying. So he set the child on top of a dresser, and when she continued crying, slammed her head-first to the floor, and fell on top of her.
Before she died, doctors discovered Dolci had healing bruises and rib fractures.
Since 2007, 175 children in Colorado have died of abuse and neglect. Of those, 72, including Dolci, had previous contact with caseworkers charged with protecting children from abuse, a 2012 investigation by The Denver Post found.
Months before she died, Dolci's paternal grandmother took her to the emergency room with a broken leg, and Jefferson County human services investigated. The county referred Dolci, her mom and Ruiz to the Kempe Center's Child Abuse Prevention team.
Earlier, Adams County Human Services investigated whether Ruiz abused his two children with another woman.