Dad ALFONSO F. SANCHEZ has been sentenced to 2-10 years in prison for abusing his infant daughter. The 4-month-old baby's skull was fractured under Daddy's care, and for ten days, Daddy had no explanation. Not until the warrant was issued. THEN we come up with the "tripping" story. Naturally.
Child abuser gets 2-10 years
September 24, 2010 - By Edward Marshall, Journal Staff Writer
MARTINSBURG - A 28-year-old Martinsburg man convicted last month on child abuse and neglect charges following a jury trial in Berkeley County Circuit Court was sentenced Thursday to the maximum sentence allowable under the law.
Alfonso F. Sanchez, of 120 Eclipse Court, was found guilty Aug. 27 on one count of child abuse causing serious bodily injury and one count of child neglect creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury, both felonies.
The charges stem from an incident in October 2008 that resulted in Sanchez's infant daughter receiving a skull fracture.
He was sentenced Thursday by West Virginia 23rd Judicial Circuit Court Judge Gina Groh to two to 10 years in prison on the child abuse conviction and one to five years in prison on the child neglect conviction. Groh also ordered that the convictions run consecutively, and she fined Sanchez $1,000 on each count. In addition, Sanchez will be required to register for life on West Virginia's child abuse registry upon release from prison.
"Somebody has to speak for (the victim). That's what the jury has done. I think that is what I'm hoping the court will do," Detective Lt. G.B. Swartwood of the Martinsburg City Police Department, the lead investigator in the case, told the court prior to sentencing. "The jury has spoken for the child victim and I hope that this court does also."
Both Sanchez and his attorney, Robin Skinner-Prinz, maintain that the child's injury was accidental. Sanchez claims it was caused after he knocked over a chair the child was sitting in.
Prior to sentencing, Skinner-Prinz presented post-trial motions to the court asking for an arrest of judgment and a new trial. Both motions were denied.
Skinner-Prinz later renewed her motion for a new trial and asked that sentencing be continued after she told the court Thursday that she learned during a break in the proceedings that Sanchez had an e-mail statement from the victim's mother stating she didn't believe Sanchez was responsible for the child's injury.
The motion to continue sentencing also was denied after the court heard from the victim's mother.
"I don't recall that specific e-mail at all," she said. "Even if there was ... it's not my my decision. The jury has already found him guilty."
She also provided the court with a written victim impact statement, which was not read aloud into the record.
The victim's grandmother also addressed the court.
"It has been a horrible two years," she said. "He knows exactly what he did to (the victim) and that's all I have to say."
Skinner-Prinz, with her post-trial motions exhausted, asked the court to consider sentencing Sanchez to five years of probation in lieu of a penitentiary sentence, or, at the very least, a limited penitentiary sentence in addition to probation.
Sanchez has no criminal history and witnesses on his behalf described him as a loving father. Skinner-Prinz also told the court that she believed testimony at trial from a medical expert indicated that the child's injury could have been the result of an accidental "tripping" as Sanchez described.
"The fact that this is a grave injury doesn't preclude the fact that it's an accidental injury," Skinner-Prinz said.
Sanchez also addressed the court prior to sentencing.
"I feel terrible that my daughter was injured in the first place," Sanchez said. "I take responsibility for my actions. I want to continue to work and provide for my children as I have always have done. ... I love my girls and I want to be the best father I can be for them."
Assistant Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Jones and Swartwood were granted the last words before sentencing.
Swartwood said Sanchez's accident explanation came 10 days after he was questioned extensively by police and only after a warrant had been issued. Sanchez was asked repeatedly during questioning what might have caused the child's injury, but Swartwood said Sanchez initially told police he didn't know how it happened.
Jones told the court that the jury didn't buy Sanchez's story that the chair the child was sitting in was accidentally flipped over and asked Groh not to grant probation.
"This is an injury to a helpless 4-month-old child. The jury found that he did it and he needs to be punished for it," Jones said. "The state doesn't feel the defendant is entitled to any mercy."
When Groh finally weighed in, she said that, while she believed Sanchez was genuinely remorseful for the injury to his daughter, the jury's verdict required him to be punished in accordance with state statute.
"The findings by this jury require that a penalty be assessed and requires incarceration," she said.
-Staff writer Edward Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182, or firstname.lastname@example.org