Nathan S. Savage and Janelle Sikich each told Dakota County District Judge Christopher Lehmann on Wednesday that they will forever grieve for their son Nolan. But, they said, they have emerged from the tragedy a better couple and a better family.
Sikich was in court to speak on behalf of Savage, 31, who was to be sentenced after pleading guilty last October to causing the 2-month-old baby's death.
According to statements made in court and documents, Savage got drunk and took the baby to bed with him on Oct. 18, 2013. During the night, Savage rolled over onto the infant and suffocated him. Police were called at 5:55 a.m.
Savage originally was charged with three counts of second-degree manslaughter and one each of child neglect and child endangerment. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 29 to one of the counts of second-degree manslaughter.
Although sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of 5½ years, a plea agreement called for a stayed sentence plus 45 to 60 days in jail and up to 10 years' probation, because Savage was amenable to probation and showed remorse. He underwent therapy before he was ordered to do so by the court.
"I wish there would be no jail time," Sikich told the judge. She said that Savage is fathering her two children and that they have a 4-month-old child together. "I wish you could see who he really is. We've become better parents, better everything."
Their pastor, the Rev. Brandon Newton, also spoke on Savage's behalf: "Nathan is very aware of the result of his actions," Newton said. "He feels remorse from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed."
Lehmann gave Savage credit for trying to better himself. "Tragedy defines our character," the judge said. "You could have easily gone down the chutes. You chose to go in a completely opposite direction. The person you are now is a much better person. You do deserve some recognition for that."