A 22-year-old man will spend at least the next 15 years in prison after admitting to killing his infant son by throwing him against the wall of his Fairfield home.
Austin Morris, of West Point Pleasant Court, was sentenced Tuesday morning to 15 years to life in prison by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Craig Hedric. Morris pleaded guilty to murder for the death of his nine-week-old son, Benjamin.
According to prosecutors, Morris shook the baby and threw him against a wall on Jan. 13. Benjamin died of head injuries two days later. Family members said Morris lied about what happened for 36 hours after the baby was hospitalized, which deprived the child treatment that may have saved his life.
Morris’ wife, Kristen Rader, clutched her baby’s photograph and wept during the short hearing. Her mother, Amy Cash, spoke on behalf of the family before the mandatory sentence was imposed.
“The pain is immeasurable,” Cash said of the baby’s death. “We are heartbroken. My daughter’s life will never be the same.
“He hurt Benny and then lied about it,” she continued. “It was a calculated, maniacal thought process… I never, ever would have thought he was capable of such a heinous act.”
Morris, who looked straight ahead or down at the floor while standing before the judge, did offer an apology.
“Your honor, to those who this affects, I just wanted to express my remorse,” Morris said. “I pray for forgiveness on the part of those whose hearts have been broken.”
After the hearing, defense attorney Josh Engel said that Morris has some mental health issues, but not to the level that would have supported a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea.
“It is a terrible case for everyone,” Engel said. “Hopefully, he (Morris) will get the help he needs in prison.”
Rader declined comment after the hearing, but Cash again spoke for the family. She said Benny’s older sister, age 5, misses her brother.
“We tell her he is in heaven,” Cash said.