Hailey Waluk walks out of the Edmonton Law Courts pushing her daughter Taelyr Waluk, after hearing the verdict of the James Vanderham trial in Edmonton, AB on June 27, 2011.
Credits: (LAURA PEDERSEN/ QMI AGENCY)
EDMONTON - An Edmonton man who shook and choked his 10-week-old daughter, resulting in her suffering "devastating" and permanent injuries, has been put behind bars.
James Vanderham, 23, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on Monday in Court of Queen's Bench after earlier pleading guilty to aggravated assault.
Justice Stephen Hillier called it a "tragic" case that affects the entire community and said a strong message is needed to "strongly denounce" such behaviour.
The judge described the injuries suffered by victim Taelyr Waluk, now three years old, as "profound" and noted that she will never walk, talk, see or take care of herself.
"Her situation is a harsh reminder of the consequences of a failed commitment," said Hillier, ruling the baby-shaking stemmed from a combination of "indifference" and "inexperience as a parent" by Vanderham.
Court has heard Vanderham was unable to deal with the infant's crying and he both shook her and choked her.
"For this behaviour to continue until Taelyr fell out of his arms and hit her head on the floor is simply inexcusable," said Hillier, adding it was also aggravating that Vanderham failed to advise authorities what had happened and, instead, came up with a "crude deception."
According to agreed facts, after the May 6, 2008, assault, Vanderham told police he accidental sprayed baby formula in the infant's eye and then poked her in the eye while wiping it.
He then claimed an Xbox controller might have hit her head when he left the room.
Court heard it was the first time Vanderham, then 19, was alone with Taelyr and that her mother, Hailey Waluk, had left for a short time to get some asthma medication.
Prior to being sentenced, Vanderham apologized in court and said he hopes that Taelyr will one day forgive him.
That prompted the judge to say it "remains troubling" that Vanderham does not seem to understand the extent of his daughter's permanent injuries.
Court has heard Taelyr suffered a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain, and was not expected to make it. She suffered extensive brain injuries and now has cerebral palsy and chronic lung problems.
She has to be fed through a stomach tube and requires constant care.
Outside court, the child's mother said she had expected a higher sentence, but is happy it is now over and she and Taelyr can move on with their lives.
"I don't think Taelyr will ever get justice," said Waluk. "She has to live with this for the rest of her life."
Waluk said she found the apology to be "mature," but doubts she will ever let Vanderham see Taelyr.
She has also filed a civil lawsuit against Vanderham.
It was a highly emotional sentencing hearing, beginning with lots of tears from Waluk's family and friends as she, her sister and their mother read out heart-wrenching victim impact statements and ending with Vanderham's mother sobbing as her son was led away to prison.