Man who broke son's skull sentenced

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 26, 2010 - 11:10 PM

Bryant A. Mendenhall severely injured his 3-week-old child because he was mad at his wife.

Only time will tell whether 6-month-old Brighton Mendenhall will ever be able to walk, talk and play like other children. When the boy was 3 weeks old, his father squeezed the baby's skull between his hands until he heard an audible pop.

At Bryant A. Mendenhall's sentencing hearing Wednesday, Ramsey County District Judge Judith Tilsen told him that she's seen a lot of tragic cases in her 11 years as a judge, but this is the worst.

"This is the most shocking case I have ever seen," Tilsen told Mendenhall as he squirmed and fidgeted. "There is absolutely no excuse for your behavior during the offense, in the days that followed and here in court today."

Mendenhall, 20, pleaded guilty in July to felony malicious punishment of a child. Prosecutors agreed not to seek an upward departure from state sentencing guidelines, and Tilsen sentenced him to 4 years and nine months in prison. He will be eligible for release in a little more than three years.

Despite his guilty plea, Mendenhall appeared to try again Wednesday to shift the blame for the baby's injuries.

He said he would have "plenty to say" and his guilt would be overturned Thursday at a hearing to determine whether both parents' rights to the child should be terminated.

In the days following the incident, Mendenhall used the cell phone of his wife, Pamela, to send text messages to his own mother, posing as his wife and incriminating her.

According to the criminal complaint, St. Paul police went to Regions Hospital on Feb. 23 on a child abuse call. The defendant initially told police that he fell down the stairs while carrying the child. It wasn't until late May that he admitted he had crushed the baby's skull on Feb. 21 because he was angry with his wife. He swaddled the baby in blankets and gave him to his wife without telling her about the injuries. Brighton didn't get medical care for two days.

Doctors said the boy had numerous skull fractures and will have permanent brain damage.

Pamela Mendenhall read a victim-impact statement to the court, saying she only gets to see her son three times a week for three hours at a time.

"I have not and never will forgive Bryant," she said.

Robbery defendant sentenced

Tilsen also sentenced Steven D. Simmons, 26, on Thursday after the Minneapolis man pleaded guilty in June to four counts of aiding and abetting first-degree aggravated robbery.

Simmons participated in 2009 armed robberies of fast-food restaurants, gas stations and a tanning salon on Oct. 21, Nov. 2, 8, and 11.

Tilsen hung a nine-year prison sentence over Simmons' head and put him on probation for 20 years. She noted that he had been sentenced in Anoka County to four years in prison for a Nov. 25 robbery. That was sufficient -- for now --given that Simmons had taken responsibility for his actions and cooperated with authorities, Tilsen said.

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992

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