Man, 24, sentenced for shaking infant

Father gets six years in abuse of daughter

May 21, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A 24-year-old North Laurel man convicted of violently shaking his 6-month old daughter last year, leaving her with serious and likely permanent injuries, was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison.

The girl, who will be 2 years old in August, is still not walking or talking and has problems with her vision and, possibly, hearing as a result of the abuse at the hands of her father, McKim McKenny Simmons, prosecutors said.

"For days, it wasn't clear if she would live or die. That is because of the actions of the defendant," said prosecutor Mary Murphy, who urged Howard Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure to impose a sentence longer than the six-year maximum recommended by state sentencing guidelines.

"What's further disturbing is the lack of understanding ... the lack of remorse," Murphy said.

But Simmons' lawyer, Stephen Musselman, said his client should not be penalized for maintaining his innocence - despite a jury's guilty verdicts on charges of child abuse, misdemeanor assault and reckless endangerment.

Simmons asked Leasure to consider giving him probation so he can "support" his family and help his daughter.

"I miss her so much, and I know she miss me, too," he said. "Success is having a happy family and being right with God."

But Leasure said the case was "disturbing on a lot of levels." She imposed a 10-year sentence with all but six years suspended and placed Simmons on five years' probation.

"I do believe, Mr. Simmons, that the tragic consequences of your actions have altered the life of a child forever," she said.

Simmons was arrested a few weeks after his daughter was rushed to the hospital March 18 last year. Simmons had been caring for the girl in the family's home in the 9700 block of Lady Slipper Court, and he told investigators that she had fallen off the bed, according to court documents and testimony at his March trial.

The child's mother left for work about an hour before Simmons called 911, according to testimony.

But Dr. Allen R. Walker, director of pediatric emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said the injuries were caused by "abusive" shaking and impact and that the baby would have begun to show symptoms "immediately."

Doctors diagnosed the girl with a fractured skull, retinal hemorrhages and bleeding in more than one part of her brain, according to court documents.

Murphy said the girl is being cared for by a grandmother. The Sun does not identify juvenile victims of abuse.

The child is brain-damaged, but doctors may not know the extent of her problems until she reaches each new developmental stage, the prosecutor said.

Murphy said her office is pleased with the "message" the sentence sends.

"Clearly the state is happy that justice has been meted out on behalf of [the girl], who will constantly struggle with the injuries she suffered at the hands of her father," she said after the sentencing.

Musselman said that Simmons is planning to appeal his conviction.

"It's a tragedy all the way around," he said.

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