CEDAR CITY— A 23-year-old man who pleaded guilty to child abuse after severely injuring a 2-month-old baby in Brian Head in May has been sentenced to 1-15 years at the Utah State Prison.
During his sentencing hearing Monday, Brenden Shane Sannicolas received the maximum allowable sentence from 5th District Judge Matthew L. Bell, who imposed a 1-15 year term for one count of second-degree felony child abuse, in addition to six months for assault, a class B misdemeanor.
The six-month jail sentence for the misdemeanor assault count is to be served at the prison, and the two sentences are to run consecutively rather than concurrently, the judge ordered.
“The requisite statutory factors, including the gravity and circumstances of these crimes and the character of the defendant, warrant consecutive sentences,” Bell said. “Ultimately, the defendant’s prison stay will be determined by the Board of Pardons. I’m going to impose the maximum sentence permitted by law. I would urge the Board of Pardons to require the defendant to serve that sentence in its entirety. “
The charges stem from an incident that authorities say took place on May 9, when police responded to a domestic situation between Sannicolas and his girlfriend at their residence in Brian Head. Both were reportedly California residents who had moved to Brian Head in hopes of finding seasonal employment.
The girlfriend’s infant daughter, identified only in court documents by the initials L.B., was at the residence at the time of the altercation, although she was soon taken back to California by friends of the family. After arriving in California, the child was admitted to the hospital for treatment of extensive injuries.
The child’s injuries, which included bleeding on the brain, multiple broken ribs and leg fractures, were consistent with shaken baby syndrome, Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson said as he read aloud details from the investigators’ report Monday afternoon shortly before the judge handed down the sentence.
Although L.B.’s injuries were critical and life threatening, Dotson said the child is expected to survive. Still, he noted, the long-term effects and extent of the damage are not yet known, adding that it is possible she might have some blindness, particularly in her right eye, as a result of the brain injury she sustained.
Sannicolas is not the child’s biological father, according to court documents, and Dotson said the 23-year-old did not express remorse or concern during his interviews with investigators conducted at Iron County Jail on May 12.
“Not once did the defendant ask or inquire as to the condition of the child as I spoke with him,” Doston said, reading from the investigator’s report, which added: “It is the opinion of the investigator that any reasonable person would show some emotion while speaking about life-threatening injuries and blatant child abuse that occurred to the child, even if it were not their own.”
Sannicolas, who has been incarcerated at Iron County Jail since his arrest, ultimately pleaded guilty to the two counts on Aug. 18, whereupon additional misdemeanor charges relating to drug possession and furnishing alcohol to a minor were dropped.
Notwithstanding those guilty pleas, Dotson asked the judge on Monday to impose the maximum possible sentence.
“Your Honor, given the facts and circumstances of this case, given the complete lack of accountability on the part of Mr. Sannicolas, the state cannot ask for anything less than one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison,” Dotson said during the hearing.
Bell agreed and sentenced Sannicolas accordingly. The judge told Sannicolas he has 30 days to appeal his sentence if desired.
Following the sentencing, Dotson told Cedar City News the case was “very close to turning from child abuse to murder. That is how close we were to losing L.B.”
“What is truly heartbreaking is that we still do not know the extent of the impact of what she will face as she matures and grows,” Dotson added. “We do know she will have some real challenges as a result of the abuse.”
L.B. is reportedly in the process of being adopted, Dotson said, adding that the child’s mother, who is facing criminal charges in California, will not have custody.
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