A Carson City father who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the skull-fracture death of his infant son was sentenced to 12-30 months in prison on Tuesday, with credit for time served of 230 days.
"I can't give probation on a charge like this," said District Judge Bill Maddox, to father Paul Anderson.
Anderson, 46, and his wife, Aurora, 31, were arrested on Feb. 16 on a warrant for first-degree murder in the April 19, 2006, death of their 7-month-old son Tyrone.
In exchange for the dismissal of charges against Aurora Anderson, Paul Anderson pleaded in October to involuntary manslaughter.
According to court records, Paul Anderson last checked on his son at 2 a.m. when the boy appeared to be asleep. At 6 a.m., as the father was preparing to go to work, he found Tyrone dead in his crib. Both Andersons told investigators that the child had fallen from their bed the previous evening.
A Reno pathologist said a 4-inch depressed fracture found on the left side of Tyrone's head indicated homicide.
"The cause of death in this 7-month-old is due to severe blunt-force injury of the head," according to the autopsy report.
Tyrone's death certificate lists "struck/beaten by unknown assailant(s)," in response to the question of "How Injury Occurred."
Before a dozen Anderson supporters, including Paul Anderson's 22-year-old son in uniform and on leave from the Navy, Defense Attorney Ben Walker on Tuesday asked Maddox for probation, noting that Paul Anderson is a "quiet, gentle" man who has no criminal history other than a battery charge from 16 years ago.
Walker said that even after spending eight months in jail, Paul Anderson got his job back as a maintenance supervisor for several Northern Nevada McDonald's restaurants owned by a Carson City man.
Walker said that the night before Tyrone's death, the family had an uneventful evening. They ate Kentucky Fried Chicken at Ross Gold Park and went to Wal-Mart where they bought boots and a cowboy hat for Tyrone's 4-year-old brother.
When they returned home, Walker said, Tyrone was fussy - as was his general disposition at bedtime. When the Andersons brought their son into bed with them, Tyrone accidentally fell off the bed.
"They didn't believe he could have hurt himself from such a short fall," Walker said. "They didn't realize that Tyrone had been injured that severely."
As a result of their ignorance, they didn't think to take their son to the hospital and he died, said Walker.
He said when the couple were arrested, they were forced to give up custody of their surviving son to a family member so he wouldn't be put up for adoption to strangers, and that they lost the home they had just purchased.
"I think he's been punished more than most ... possibly because of his inaction, his son died. That's something he's going to live with every day," Walker said.
The prosecution, however, still believes that the injury to Tyrone was intentional, said Carson City Assistant District Attorney Gerald Gardner.
"The state is the only one speaking on behalf of Tyrone in this case," he said in asking that Paul Anderson receive 18-48 months in prison.
"The fact is that Tyrone was murdered. Tyrone, a 7-month-old child, had a skull fracture inflicted on him. He died of severe blunt force trauma ... one of Tyrone's parents inflicted this injury, one of Tyrone's parents crushed his skull. One of his parents killed him and both of them allowed him to die."
Anderson spoke briefly, telling Maddox he still had no idea what happened to his son. He said he believed the District Attorney's office was doing its job, but in the case of his arrest, "They just wanted somebody to be responsible."
Maddox said that in deciding Anderson's fate, he looked to the four goals judges seek to accomplish when sentencing - deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution and isolation.
He did not think Anderson was a threat, and so he needn't be isolated from the community. He didn't see the sentence as retribution for the boy's death, because Anderson had lost his son and home already. The judge said he didn't see rehabilitation as something that could be provided by prison, but he did see that sending Anderson to prison would be a deterrent for others.
"What I do is watched," the judge said. "I can't let this go."
Paul Anderson will surrender to authorities on Jan 4. Maddox said it's likely he will serve 150 days, before appearing before the parole board.
"There is probably no prison term that is going to make up for the life of a child, but given the facts and circumstances of this case, we think that the judge gave a fair sentencing," said Gardner following the hearing. "We have no doubt intentional injury was inflicted on this child, the only question is which parent did it."
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.