Katherine Stanfield led an “exemplary life” for more than 50 years, until one day when she lost her temper over a stubborn child’s unwillingness to take off his coat, a judge said Tuesday as he handed down his sentence for first-degree murder.
“It’s quite obvious this was an explosive moment,” 4th District Court Judge Ronald Wilper said.
Prosecutors say Stanfield violently slammed the boy’s head into a hard object at least three times.
Stanfield, however, has maintained her innocence since her arrest — and did so again.
“I would never cause harm on anyone or anything, as that is not who I am,” she said in a statement read by public defender Ed Odessey.
Wyatt Fesler, 2, was so severely injured that he was comatose when paramedics arrived at Stanfield’s home in December 2009. He died two days later.
Paramedics noted handprints on the boy’s shoulders when they treated him at the scene, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Dan Dinger said in court Tuesday. The boy suffered injuries to his spinal cord and brain, as well as massive internal bleeding.
“It was an act of violence — an act of significant violence on a helpless little child,” Dinger said, noting that Wyatt weighed 25 pounds and was 34.5 inches tall.
Stanfield was a day-care provider for 28 years. She offered sympathy — but no apology — regarding Wyatt’s death.
“I would like you to know that losing a child is one of the worst kind of heartaches to ever go through. The pain never goes away, remaining in your heart like that of a revolving door that never closes,” she said in the statement. “I and my husband are very aware of this, as we lost two of our own children — a son, then our daughter, three years apart. My heart feels so bad for anyone having to go through this kind of loss for their loved one.”
Stanfield’s defense was that the boy had medical issues, including equilibrium problems, that caused him to fall and injure himself.
LACK OF REMORSE
“She was desperate to try to place the blame elsewhere, and she tried to place it on Wyatt,” said Dinger, who recommended a life sentence with no chance of parole for 30 years.
The prosecutor said a severe penalty was warranted because of her lack of remorse; her delay in calling 911 to aid the boy (she called her daughter first); an attempt to manipulate testimony of a young witness; and a lack of “rehabilitative potential.”
After a monthlong trial, a jury determined on June 4 that Stanfield was guilty of murder.
Wilper said he has no doubt that Stanfield is guilty of killing Wyatt — but he said there was no indication that it was premeditated or intentional. He also noted she had no prior criminal record.
The judge said a sentence involving 30 years before parole can be sought should be reserved for the “worst kind of premeditated murder.” He talked about Stanfield being a day-care operator who ran “a pretty tight ship,” kept a clean house and fed the children nutritious food.
Wilper said she just lost her temper, and then lashed out at the boy.
He imposed a life sentence, but with parole eligibility after just a decade. He gave Stanfield credit for the 93 days served in jail and also ordered her to pay restitution of $19,000.
FEAR AT THE END
Wyatt’s grandmother and great-grandmother both testified Tuesday. They were not permitted to provide victim impact statements because they are not considered “immediate family” under state law, even though both provided round-the-clock care for the boy at times.
“He took his first steps into my arms,” said Barbara Elam Stearns, the boy’s 79-year-old great-grandmother. He slept in a crib at the foot of her bed until he was 13 months old.
“My losing Wyatt was just like losing my own child,” said Stearns through tears. “Every night I have trouble sleeping.”
She said what wakes her up at night is the thought that he was afraid during the last moments of his life.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413