Jason Milby, of Springboro, was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday after being convicted of shaking his then-fiance’s 2-year-old son into a permanent vegetative state.
A Warren County jury of seven men and five woman returned the guilty verdict after more than two hours deliberations in Milby’s retrial. Common Pleas Judge Robert Peeler declared a mistrial in Milby’s first trial after the jury was split six to six.
Milby, 30, was charged with one count of felonious assault and one count of child endangering for causing “neurologically devastating” injuries to 2-year-old Bryce Shannon while babysitting him and two of his siblings in July 2011.
Peeler said this case was the worst tragedy he has seen.
“I find your conduct reprehensible…,” he said. “It is an injustice that I can sentence someone to life for taking the life of another, but there is an eight-year maximum in a case like this, where a child’s life has been taken away with the exception of being able to breathe.”
Despite the verdict and sentencing, Milby still maintained he did not harm the toddler.
“I don’t know what to say,” Milby said. “I didn’t do this.”
Defense attorney Jon Paul Rion focused on the fact that no one actually witnessed what happened to the boy. He said the precocious boy may have climbed — as he was prone to do — on the dresser in his bedroom and catapulted onto his bed and hit his head on the wall. He reminded the jury Bryce often walked in his sleep and would wind up in strange places.
“What indication do you have? Where is the proof…that would show that this man, in any way, caused these injuries,” Rion said. “We don’t know what happened here.”
The child’s mother Collett Shannon, who married Milby on Jan. 2, said she still backs him. Prosecutor David Fornshell said Shannon lost custody of her three children when the court ordered Milby not to be around them.
“I never once believed he did anything inside that bedroom…,” she said. “I love my kids. I always have, and they come before everybody in this world, before myself and anybody in this world.”
Fornshell said given the fact Bryce is in a permanent vegetative state — the toddler can’t see, speak, feed himself or otherwise acknowledge anything in life — the verdict was just.
“We are obviously pleased with the verdict, but Mr. Milby took this child’s life for all intents and purposes,” he said. “There is nothing we can do in law enforcement to change that, so for that reason there is no celebrating… It’s a horrible tragedy.”
Throughout the trial prosecutors insisted and their experts maintained that a fall from a 17-inch-tall dining chair could not cause the catastrophic injuries Bryce suffered.
During closing arguments Assistant Prosecutor Julie Kraft scoffed at the notion of the chair fall as the cause.
“The injuries that Bryce Shannon had were not from a minor bump on the head,” she said. “They were not from a fall from 17 inches. It defies logic and common sense.”