BOISE — Jeffery Alan Baker was sentenced Wednesday to serve up to life for shaking his young daughter to death in 2010.
Fourth District Ada County Judge Patrick Owen said the death of 11-week-old Gracelynn Baker from abusive head injury was a "tragedy for everyone."
He noted that Baker had lived a crime-free and sober life after being paroled in 2006 on a forgery charge, and had seemingly turned his back on a life of crime until the day Gracelynn was killed.
"It's weighed heavily on me, Mr. Baker, that you were living your life the way you hadn't in a long time," Owen said. "What also weighs heavily on me is that an innocent life has been lost."
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu asked Owen to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Defense attorney Keith Roark of Hailey did not seek a specific prison term, but asked the judge to allow his client a chance for parole.
Both attorneys said they were satisfied with the sentence, which will allow parole after 15 years.
"I think the judge was very thoughtful," Roark said. "On the whole, I'm very happy."
Akamatsu said she recommended a sentence she thought was appropriate.
"We're just glad that Gracelynn's family will find some closure," she said.
Owen ordered that Baker's sentence run concurrent to his forgery conviction. He was scheduled to be released from prison in 2018 on that charge.
An Ada County jury found Baker, who worked as a plumber, guilty of first-degree murder in April. The trial lasted two weeks and the jury deliberated for six hours before returning its verdict.
Baker, 53, continued to maintain his innocence Wednesday and told the judge he didn't feel that he got a fair trial. He blamed an adult babysitter who had cared for the child during the day on May 10, 2010. Witnesses said the child appeared fine after Baker returned home from picking Gracelynn up at the babysitter's.
"My daughter died in my arms but not at my hands," Baker told the judge.
He said Gracelynn choked on formula and that he ran to neighbors for help. Emergency room doctors called police after suspecting the baby was abused.
Baker said he wakes up every day thinking about his daughter.
"I cry and wipe away my tears and do what I have to for the rest of the day," he said.
Baker accused several physicians who testified for the prosecution of perjury. He also said St. Luke's Boise Medical Center deprived his daughter of oxygen during the first of four nights she spent in the intensive care unit, before life support was removed and she died.
He has filed a malpractice lawsuit against the hospital based on his allegations.
"I'm angry that the system failed my daughter," he said.
Shawna LeBleu, Gracelynn's mother, addressed the court by telephone.
"I have nightmares over what this person did to my baby child," she said. "It's not natural for a parent to bury their child."
LeBleu and Baker dated for only a short time before she found herself pregnant.
Child welfare workers took Gracelynn from LeBleu after drugs were found in her system. Baker received custody and initially had her in day care but then contracted with the babysitter, who he knew previously.
"This is a better man than anyone in this case gives him credit for," Roark said. "He is a man with a conscience."
John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell