Tyson Brown, 23, has been sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison for murdering two-year-old Arapera Fia in 2021.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment but will be able to apply for parole after the 15 years have passed.
Brown remained composed during sentencing. Family members of both Brown and his victim were in the public gallery.
"Love you," one person yelled out as he heard the outcome.
Family members made several outbursts as they left the court.
Young Arapera died in Starship Hospital on November 1, during Auckland's longest lockdown, after being found at an address in Weymouth with critical injuries the day before.
Police indicated at the time they believed the death to be suspicious.
Brown was charged with murder, and a woman who cannot be named has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
She was not sentenced today.
READ MORE: Auckland toddler who died under 'suspicious' circumstances named
Justice David Johnstone delivered Brown's sentence to a packed room at Auckland High Court this morning.
He was flanked in the dock by two security guards.
"She should have been loved and nurtured by everyone," Justice Johnstone said.
"You owed her a duty which approached that of the duty owed by a guardian.
"You do not accept that you killed Arapera yourself. You should."
The defence had asked for a minimum non-parole period of 15 years.
The prosecution had asked for a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
'You struck her, or you struck her against hard surfaces'
Justice Johnstone explained how neighbours had heard Brown screaming and swearing at Arapera in the lead up to her death.
There were photographs taken by concerned people of injuries to Arapera in the time before her death, he added.
"I do not, however, find that it had to be you who caused those injuries," Justice Johnstone said.
Then, on October 31, Brown "spontaneously" let his own circumstances overwhelm him, the judge said.
"You struck her, or you struck her against hard surfaces in her bedroom," he said.
Brown's lawyer said Arapera's injuries were caused "in a matter of moments", and "this was not a premeditated attack".
He also pointed to Brown's age at the time of the offending, his own family background, and his lack of previous convictions for violence.
Justice Johnstone acknowledged Brown's difficult personal family circumstances.
The prosecuting lawyer said that Arapera's injuries suggested a beating that lasted minutes, not seconds.
The court heard how the circumstances in the house were stressful in the lead-up to Arapera's death.
READ MORE: Pair charged over two-year-old girl’s death in Auckland
Brown had tested positive for Covid-19 in the days before the incident, and was isolating at the Gibbons Rd property.
The woman was told she had tested positive for Covid-19 on the day Arapera sustained her fatal injuries.
The prosecution lawyer argued that, despite the stresses of the lockdown, the pair had support available to them.
After the incident, both Brown and the woman Googled how they could wake Arapera up, the court heard.
Emergency services were not called for another two-and-a-half hours, Justice Johnstone said.
He said the decision to defer medical treatment for Arapera was a "selfish" one.
At one point, when the judge said Brown had later pretended not to know he had killed Arapera, Brown shook his head.
Justice Johnstone reprimanded him, saying: "Do not shake your head. It won't serve you."
Arapera's father speaks out
Brown stood to listen as Arapera's father, Malcolm Fia, read his victim impact statement to the court.
Fia recalled how he was told about his daughter's death while he was at work on November 1.
He said that he was in "disbelief" at the news, and "felt like he was losing his mind" while waiting for the release of Arapera's body.
"I hadn't seen Arapera in weeks, and the next time I did, I had to dress her in the funeral home," he told the court.
"When I finally went in, the first thing I noticed was all the markings and bruises on her face... She was loved by everyone."
Fia said he had received messages expressing concern for Arapera's wellbeing the day before she died, and he expressed regret that he hadn't gone around to the address to check on her.
"Maybe things would be different," he said.
Brown listened to the statement with a neutral face, his hands clasped in front of him.
Fia also spoke of how he "withdrew" after the death and spent time lying beside his daughter's grave.
"It didn't matter the weather, I stayed," he said.
"I would sleep there as I had a feeling my daughter doesn't know where she was and she was all alone.
"Tyson has taken my legacy away. I need to try ease the anger out.
"Now, I'm starting to feel like it's time to help me get through this and heal."
Through a statement provided to New Zealand police, Fia added he is grateful for the work that has gone into today's result.
Fia said: "He has snatched away the life and memories we could’ve had with Arapera. But know that she will always be engraved in our memory.
"Thank you to each and every one that has helped and supported to get justice for our angel baby Arapera.
"No words can describe and express how grateful I am with the support system behind me."
Police respond to sentencing
In acknowledging Fia's sentencing on behalf of police, Detective Inspector Warrick Adkin said investigations like this case are never straightforward.
"Children are amongst some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and we all have a duty of responsibility to them," he said.
He thanked Arapera's extended whānau for their assistance, and also thanked the investigators for their work on "a challenging case".