NAPOLEON - Henry County Prosecutor John Hanna told a judge yesterday that a 20-year-old McClure man who hit his infant son should receive the maximum eight-year prison sentence.
But Jason Hendrix's lawyer asked the judge for leniency, saying his client didn't mean to harm the infant.
“This was a monstrous act by someone I think is a good person,” Donald Cameron told Judge Keith Muehlfeld in Henry County Common Pleas Court. After listening to both sides, Judge Muehlfeld sentenced Hendrix to five years in prison for the Jan. 22 incident.
Hendrix pleaded guilty in March to felonious assault for causing severe internal head injuries to his son Zackary - the first baby born in Henry County this year. The baby was 22 days old at the time of the incident.
He will be credited with serving 140 days in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio and eligible for release in 2006. The second-degree felony charge carries a minimum two-year and maximum eight-year prison sentence.
According to Zackary's primary care physician, the baby's prognosis is undetermined, Mr. Hanna said. The extent of damage to his brain and how it will progress is unknown since the injuries occurred at such a young age.
The one certainty: Zackary “will suffer some degree of cognitive dysfunction the rest of his life,'' Mr. Hanna said.
“The defendant was the father and there to take care of the child. Instead of taking care of the child, he chose to strike him. He hit him once and then hit him again, causing these massive injuries,'' he said.
Mr. Cameron said that when he first met Hendrix at the jail, Hendrix “was crying as a father. I felt no self-pity from him. Hendrix was surprised and bewildered by what happened. He wants to do what he can to support this child when he gets out.''
Judge Muehlfeld said the circumstances of the case made it especially difficult to determine a sentence.
“There are two things that won't change whether this court sentences the defendant to two years or to eight years: The child's condition that's going to progress and evolve, regardless. Second, the defendant is the father of the victim.''
In a letter to the court, Hendrix indicated, “he snapped,'' Judge Muehlfeld said. “His letter indicates a sense of genuine remorse.''
The judge said the assault appeared to be a “momentary loss of control.''
Hendrix, who had recently lost his job, was Zackary's sole caretaker on Jan. 22. His wife, Amanda, had gone back to work early from maternity leave to help support the family. It was the first time Hendrix had cared for Zackary alone. He had no previous experience caring for a baby. Mr. Hanna said the baby was crying and Hendrix lost control, striking the baby twice.
Hendrix took his critically injured son to Henry County Hospital that afternoon and the Henry County sheriff was notified.
Zackary, who had severe internal head injuries, was transferred to Toledo Hospital, where he was treated in the pediatric intensive care unit.
On his way out of the courtroom yesterday, Amanda's father, Tom Kestner, pointed at Hendrix and said, “Your son gets 50 or 60 years and you only get five. Something doesn't seem right in this world.''
Mr. Kestner said Amanda has filed for divorce and will fight for sole custody of Zackary. He said she doesn't want Hendrix to have visitation rights.