John Michael Nilles was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday for the death of a 16-month-old boy who died from injuries that indicate the toddler was shaken so violently that he suffered irreversible brain damage.
At Nilles' sentencing, the baby's mother called him ”a killer” and ”a dangerous human being” who took no responsibility for Maxwell William Murphy Moore's death.
”I have yet to see a sign of remorse, and the only show of emotion was executed long enough for the newspaper to take a picture and then abruptly ceased,” Danielle Edelman, 29, said of Nilles' tearful testimony at his trial.
A jury found Nilles, 28, guilty of manslaughter earlier this month for causing Maxwell William Murphy Moore's death last year. Nilles also had been charged with first-degree assault and murder, but was acquitted on those counts.
Before Maxwell's death, Nilles and Edelman were a couple and shared a Terrebonne residence.
Prosecutors argued that Maxwell died from shaken baby syndrome. They played a taped confession for jurors of Nilles admitting to shaking Maxwell to get him to stop crying.
Nilles testified that he was coerced into confessing and that Maxwell had fallen from a table while he was with his mother earlier in the day. But Edelman contradicted that assertion, and said Nilles fabricated a fall that never happened to make it look as though he didn't cause Maxwell's injuries.
At Friday's hearing, Edelman, who now lives in Sun Valley, Idaho, read a prepared statement over the phone.
”When he killed Max, he lied about what happened and tried to hide the truth by cleaning up while my son lay dying on the carpet,” Edelman said.
In a statement to police, Nilles said he stopped to clean up vomit after Maxwell stopped breathing on Jan. 3, 2006, before seeking help for the baby.
Maxwell collapsed while in Nilles' care and died the next day from closed head trauma and resulting complications, according to an autopsy.
At Nilles' trial, forensic experts for the state testified that closed head trauma occurs when the brain moves rapidly inside the skull, causing torn blood vessels and nerve damage. The injuries, they said, can cause permanent brain damage and, in severe cases, death.
Several of Maxwell's family members sent statements that were read by Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan at Friday's hearing. They wrote of the devastating effect the toddler's loss has had on them and Danielle Edelman.
Maxwell's dad, Jeremy Moore, appeared in person and was the last family member to speak.
”The rage and the anger and the hate in this man sitting there is incomprehensible,” he said, pointing to Nilles. ”To hurt a small child, to hurt a baby who had no defense whatsoever. ... Mr. Nilles, may God be with you, you'll need him.”
As requested by the prosecution and defense lawyers, Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Forte imposed the mandatory minimum sentence provided for under Oregon law. The voter-approved statute provides for no ”good time,” so Nilles will serve the entire 10 years.
Forte said that he realized 10 years would never be enough in Maxwell's family's eyes, but said the child's life was not lost in vain.
He said the media attention drawn by Nilles' trial helped to educate people who may not have known about shaken baby syndrome and may have saved many young lives.
”Whether Mr. Nilles learned from that, only time will tell,” Forte said. ”He is going to have 10 years to think about that.”
Forte also ordered Nilles to pay for the medical treatment Maxwell received before his death.
Dugan requested that Nilles also pay the prosecution's expenses for trying the case, which totals nearly $22,000.
Despite Friday's sentencing, his defense attorneys have said that Nilles will continue to fight his conviction.
During nearly two days of deliberations the jurors in Nilles' case were privy to information they should not have had, said Bend defense attorney Jacques DeKalb. Several articles on head trauma that were not introduced into evidence somehow made their way into the jury room, he said, and could have affected their decision.
So DeKalb and his co-counsel, Aaron Brenneman, plan to file a motion asking for a new trial.